Climate change, armed conflict, and development threaten some of Earth’s greatest treasures—the World Heritage in Danger List calls for their safeguarding.
Each year the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization recognizes cultural and natural sites for their outstanding value to humanity, ranging from beautiful natural landscapes to humankind’s most ingenious constructions.
But as storms batter coastlines, development encroaches on wildlife habitats, and armed conflict devastates communities, millennia of humanity’s shared heritage are at risk.
Established in 1972, Article 11.4 of the 1972 UNESCO convention instituted the List of World Heritage in Danger to recognize sites in need of protection from a wide range of threats, including urban and tourism development, armed conflict, natural disasters, and abandonment. The aim of the list is to increase international awareness, encourage countermeasures, and thwart future damage.
NAN MADOL, MICRONESIA
More than a hundred islets off the coast of Pohnpei form the ceremonial site of Nan Madol. Ruins of stone palaces, temples, and tombs dating from 1200 to 1500 A.D. reveal the Pacific Island culture of the Saudeleur dynasty.
Bethlehem lies 10 kilometers south of the city of Jerusalem, in the fertile limestone hill country of the Holy Land. Since at least the 2nd century AD people have believed that the place where the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, now stands is where Jesus was born. One particular cave, over which the first Church was built, is traditionally believed to be the Birthplace itself. In locating the Nativity, the place both marks the beginnings of Christianity and is one of the holiest spots in Christendom. The original basilica church of 339 AD (St Helena), parts of which survive below ground, was arranged so that its octagonal eastern end surrounded, and provided a view of, the cave. This church is overlaid by the present Church of the Nativity, essentially of the mid-6th century AD (Justinian), though with later alterations. It is the oldest Christian church in daily use. Since early medieval times, the Church has been increasingly incorporated into a complex of other ecclesiastical buildings, mainly monastic.
Battir is a major Palestinian cultural landscape, the adaptation of a deep valley system for agricultural purposes as a result of a good supply of water. The complex irrigation system of this water supply has led to the creation of dry walls terraces which may have been exploited since antiquity. The agricultural terraces, exploiting this irrigation system, were the basis for a strong presence of agriculture through the cultivation of olives and vegetables. The area still today has the same use.
The water distribution system used by the families of Battir is a testament to an ancient egalitarian distribution system that delivers water to the terraced agricultural land based on a simple mathematical calculation and a clear time-managed rotation scheme.
The village of Battir is not far from Jerusalem and is right on the Israel/Palestine border. In fact, there are Israeli train tracks which go right past the terraces at the bottom of the hill.
I could not find any organized tours to Battir, which was a shame.
Since September 2013, twenty enthusiasts from Bethlehem and around the world have been working to renovate the church
Fifteen centuries after its reconstruction by Emperor Justinian, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity has lost none of its splendor.
Each year more than two million pilgrims or tourists enter the small entry door to the basilica to visit the treasures the church has accumulated since it was first recognized in the second century as the site of Jesus’ birth.
Soon, visitors will be able to once again admire mosaics that have been hidden from public view for hundreds of years.
Damaged by fire in the sixth century and worn down by time and events, the church’s appearance has seriously deteriorated.
Palestinian authorities decided in 2009 to seek funding for a complete renovation expected to cost more than 18 million euros.
As usual, Palestinians in the West Bank city of Bethlehem are hosting Christmas festivities for thousands of visitors to the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born. But this year, US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has caused tensions and dampened the holiday mood.
On an unseasonably warm night, a few days before Christmas, Manger Square in the West Bank city of Bethlehem is lit with thousands of bright lights and a huge, twinkling Christmas tree. In the center of the square, a large manger scene has been set up, and parents explain the birth of Jesus Christ to their children. Vendors hawk Christmas decorations and sahlab, a traditional drink made from the ground-up bulbs of orchids.
How disparate approaches to international law play out at the organisation.
Around the world, the media has reported that the US and Israel have pulled out of Unesco because the international organisation is partisan regarding Israel. Do disparate approaches to international law and peace plans automatically put Unesco at odds with Israel and the US?
More than 135 states in Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe have diplomatically recognised Palestine. Israel and the US do not and remain critical of Unesco since the 2011 admission of Palestine as a member state, arguing that Palestinians should pursue rights through bilateral negotiations with Israel in the framework of a peace plan, not through United Nations agencies.
In a widely anticipated move, the Trump administration announced on October 12 that it is to withdraw from UNESCO, the 72-year-old UN agency which protects the world’s cultural heritage. It is a move that benefits few.
Much of UNESCO’s work – which coordinates international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication – is transformational. While it will continue to operate, the US withdrawal will weaken its finances and central policy focus. The impact of future cultural interventions by the US in other countries may also be weakened, and it will open itself to criticism that they are merely exercises in American soft power.
A communique from the US Department of State cited “US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO”.
Israel has approved 31 new settlement homes in the city of Hebron in the West Bank for the first time in 15 years.
Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank and is home to a population of about 1,000 Israeli settlers who live in the middle of the Old City.
The new houses will be built for the Beit Romano settlement on what used to be a bus station on Shuhada Street. The Civil Administration’s Licensing Subcommittee approved the permits, but said they are subject to conditions, including appeal, the Times of Israel reports.
The Times of Israel and the Jewish Press report the approval was seen as an Israeli response to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) recent decision to list Hebron’s Old City as an “endangered Palestinian World Heritage Site.”
US to withdraw from UN cultural organization UNESCO on December 31, 2018, citing its anti-Israeli bias, as reflected by recent decisions naming Hebron Old City ‘Palestinian World Heritage Site’; decision also serves as cost-saving measure for US; Sect. of State Tillerson seeks to pay American debt to organization, then withdraw.
The United States is planning to officially announce its withdrawal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) due to its anti-Israeli stances, American news site Foreign Policy reported Thursday.
The State Department officially anounced the withdrawl, slated to take effect December 31, 2018, saying, “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”
The United States is pulling out of UNESCO because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and a need for “fundamental reform” of the U.N. cultural agency.
While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal for months, the announcement by the State Department on Thursday rocked UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, where a heated election to choose a new director is under way.
The outgoing UNESCO chief expressed her “profound regret” at the decision and tried to defend the reputation of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions.