Prospects for World Heritage marine sites in the Arctic Region

Marine scientists gather in Paris to explore World Heritage potential in the Arctic

Marine scientists gather in Paris to explore World Heritage potential in the Arctic


On 25 and 26 February 2016, scientific experts convened at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, to discuss potential  for  World Heritage marine sites in the Arctic. The meeting was part of a new project led by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The work was made possible through the generous support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and WWF Canada.  The Arctic spans 5.5 million square miles. Its icy waters are home to wildlife found nowhere else on the planet, including bowhead whales and walrus. It is classified as ground zero for climate change, however rising temperatures and melting sea ice are opening up new shipping routes and potential oil and gas developments.

Dr. David Obura, Director CORDIO East Africa among other scientist and experts attended the high level meeting  with aims to address gaps identified on an earlier scientific work done at both the World Heritage Centre and IUCN that identified the Arctic region as underrepresented on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The meeting was exploring key unique features the arctic possess that are potentially of Outstanding Universal Value and thus merit inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Arctic is being affected with global warming  and at twice the rate of the rest of the world. As Arctic sea ice retreats and the area becomes increasingly accessible to shipping and oil and gas development, the need for conservation of the area’s Outstanding Universal Value grows.  At present, there are just two natural World Heritage sites in the region: Ilulissat Icefjord and Natural System of Wrangel Island ReserveEarlier work by the World Heritage Centre and International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Prime conclusion of the meeting centered on the intimate interaction between local communities, traditional cultures and the Arctic’s natural environment and agreed that the Outstanding Universal Value of the Arctic region should be considered from both its cultural and natural perspectives.

The result of the work will be launched at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, September 2016 and published as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Paper Series and publically available in early 2017.


Prince Albert II of Monaco 


Info. first published on UNESCO – WHC