During the eighteenth session of the General Assembly the World Heritage Convention, which took place during the General Conference of UNESCO from 7- 9 November, Egypt and Jordan concluded their four-year-long membership of the World Heritage Committee (WHC). Algeria and Qatar, meanwhile, have taken become members.
This piece of news has created brouhaha in public opinion in Egypt, as many wrongly thought that Egypt was removed from the Committee for its deficiency in protecting its heritage.
“This is totally wrong,” said Mustafa Amin, secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). He told Ahram Online that, in fact, Egypt and Jordan ended their membership according to UNESCO’s convention and not because of their inefficiency in protecting their heritage sites.
According to the convention, explains Amin, a committee member’s mandate is for four years, in order to give other states (the 153 countries which have signed the convention) an opportunity to be among the 21 members of the committee. Elections to replace outgoing Committee members take place during the General Assembly of States Parties, which meet once every year during the General Conference of UNESCO. Egypt and Jordan were elected in 2007 and this year their mandates ended. At the same meeting, Qatar and Algeria were elected for a four-year mandate.
“We are very lucky that Qatar and Algeria were elected,” said Gihan Zaki, General Coordinator between UNESCO and SCA, adding that with these two countries, the Arab world is represented on the Committee by five states, which is a strong level of representation for the Middle East area. For example, she pointed out, eastern Europe is represented by only one member.
The Committee, Zaki said, was established under the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its seventeenth session on 16 November, 1972.
She pointed out that the Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, for defining the use of the World Heritage Fund and for allocating financial assistance upon requests from member states. It has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List.
It also examines reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties and asks member states to take action when properties are not being properly managed.