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                            No. 1 / March 2021

Dear World Heritage Watch Network,

you are receiving the first issue of the WHW Newsletter!

Although there is a lot of exchange through the WHW facebook page, we feel it would be useful to have a special tool by which we can share information and news exclusively among our network. The Newsletter is supposed to serve that purpose, and please consider it a service by the Berlin office designed for your use. We are expecting to have about four issues per year depending on the amount of news there will be to share.  

We invite you to send us brief texts, ideally with a photo, about anything you wish to share with the WHW Network, such as
  • news about your World Heritage Site(s)
  • successes, achievements (and also failures)
  • new projects or activities, or updates on current ones
  • changes in your organization
  • personal affairs and career
  • job or fundraising opportunities
  • search for information and/or expertise
  • new products and publications
  • reports about visitors, meetings and trips
  • outstanding photos and maps.
Through exchanging such information we will get to know much more about each other and our respective activities, strengths and expertise, and thus strengthen the coherence of our network. We may find issues of common interest and mutual support, people we can learn from, and new partners. Please write your news articles in a way that doesn't need further editing. Consider that those who read it will usually not be familiar with the details of your site, challenges, or organization, so explain everything well. As a general rule, articles should be as big as the ones you see here. In case of articles which exceed the scope of a newsletter we will create links to Read More.
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Our new intern - Louise Tournillon

We are very happy to introduce you to Louise Tournillon, our new intern since 1 March, who will be in charge of collecting your contributions and compiling the newsletter. Louise is currently finishing a Master's degree in «International negotiations and expertise» at the Political Sciences Institute of Strasbourg in France. She became interested in heritage protection at a very young age. For her first student job she was working on the rehabilitation project of a 19-century abandoned iron and steel factory. She followed up on her interest by doing a research thesis on Egyptian antiquities in international relations, and complemented this work on archaeological artifacts with a field approach. Last year she did an internship at the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) which protects archaeological artifacts threatened by land development projects. Louise will be with us full-time until end-August. She is fluent in French, English and Spanish.

Contact to Louise via email.

The 9th World Heritage Watch Forum

Just recently we have completed the 9th International Civil Society Forum on World Heritage (in short, WHW Forum) on 22–24 February, which this time took place as a zoom conference. We could not hold parallel sessions, but were able to give activists an opportunity for presentations who could not attend in previous years due to travel costs.

We had a full 3 days program with 34 reports from all continents (2 Latin America, 2 Africa, 2 Arab states, 3 Asia / Pacific, 25 Europe / North America / Russia). 12 of them were cultural sites, 8 were cultural landscapes and mixed sites, 5 were sites of importance for idigenous peoples, and 9 were natural sites. New cases were the Gelati Monastery (Georgia), the Curonian Spit (Russia), the archaeology of the Chaco Culture (New Mexico), Komodo NP (Indonesia), Pskov (Russia), Kujataa (Greenland) and the Yagul and Mitla Caves (Mexico). Immediate reactions from the World Heritage Center came to reports on the Curonian Spit, Lake Neusiedl (Hungary), Canaima NP (Venezuela), Komodo NP and Gjirokastra (Albania). The information on these cases were new to the World Heritage Center and required urgent action. 

At the opening we had 61 participants, then around 30 at any time which corresponds to the number in the previous forums.

A Campaign for Stonehenge

Stonehange Action
We decided to run a campaign especially for Stonehenge since a court case is pending on which the fate of the site will be decided in late June. This gives us an opportunity to mobilize a broad public for an iconic site in a limited period of approx. 3 months. The Stonehenge Alliance will of course be in the lead. You will receive more information about it soon, and it is critical that all of you join and support the campaign. This is the first global WHW campaign, and we must make it a success! More will follow. The next campaign could be yours!

Criminalization of our network member Ecodefense! in Russia

Curion Spit
In the case of the Curonian Spit, the Russian government has accused the NGO Ecodefense! that their report to UNESCO defamed Russia. This is of course completely unjustified; Russia's reaction represents a further step in the criminalization of Russian civil society. One of the victims was the report's author, Alexandra Koroleva, who has been living in exile in Dresden for several years. The report contains only hard facts. It criticizes the Russian authorities, but did not use any derogatory language or made any personal accusations. We have to defend our very own concern here: the right of civil society to address UNESCO with our reports. Donwload Report-on-Curonian-Spit

Urgent situation in Gjirokastra

A road construction project has begun in Gjirokastra that could actually lead to its removal from the World Heritage List. UNESCO has not been informed. Very important cultural monuments as well as the urban landscape will irretrievably be destroyed; therefore, immediate action is required.

The Upcoming 44th/45th Session of the World Heritage Committee

At the beginning of the Forum, the director of the World Heritage Centre, Dr. Mechtild Rössler, was available to answer questions for over 30 minutes. She announced that the 44th and 45th WH Committee Meetings will definitely be held in June/July; its form - physical, virtual or hybrid - will be decided at the end of March.
Logo WHWThe crucial problem with virtual conferences is that because of the time difference, no global participation is possible unless some are supposed to stay up at night. So it will likely boil down to the members of the committee having a physical meeting with small delegations while everyone else will be joining online. Since decisions on around 250 cases have to be passed at the committee meeting (53 of which are endangered world heritage sites), the opportunity of oral interventions will probably be restricted; therefore she advised that we prepare written statements. In the fall, probably invitations for 50th anniversary events will be extended. Mechtild asked us to inform her about our own planned events. She emphasized that on the anniversary, the credibility of the convention is at stake; there will be a review of the Global Strategy (the 5 Cs).
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World Heritage Watch
Stephan Doempke, Brüderstr. 13, 10178 Berlin, Germany

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