A committee meeting this week in Paris at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will decide whether 37 natural or cultural sites will join the existing 911 properties on the World Heritage List deemed to be of "outstanding universal value".
But UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova warned that "as the number of World Heritage sites grows, so does their vulnerability. We must sharpen our focus on risk preparedness and long-term management at World Heritage sites."
Thirty-four sites worldwide are currently on the List of World Heritage in Danger, including the Everglades National Park in the United States, whose aquatic ecosystem has become degraded, and the Rainforests of Atsinanana in Madagascar, because of threats from illegal logging and the hunting of endangered lemurs.
Bokova stressed that sites on the World Heritage List are "a reminder of all that unites humanity. It is a reminder also of the ties, between culture, nature and societies. World Heritage sites can be tremendous vectors for dialogue, reconciliation, development and knowledge."
Aside from determining which of the 37 nominated sites can join the World Heritage List, the World Heritage Committee will also examine the state of conservation of 169 properties already on the list.
The committee is comprised of representatives of 21 nations who have been elected to four-year terms by the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention.