brief n°18

Technical Evaluation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

brief n°17

Discover Policy Brief
n°18

Improving the Technical Evaluation process for UK WHS

UNESCO invited well-represented states to reduce their number of nominations voluntarily in order to help rebalance the global spread of World Heritage Sites. The UK’s approach has been that only the very best sites should be nominated for inscription.

The UK ratified the UNESCO Convention the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1984

Following the 2013 Expert Panel it was agreed that it would be useful to evaluate the process prior to the next round of assessment. The results of that evaluation, which included consultation of panel members and applicant sites, inform this Brief and provide the basis for its recommendations.

📮    Download the Report     
🖥    See Our Policy Advice     

Read the Brief

01

Executive Summary

Many sites around the world aspire to achieve inscription as a World Heritage Site, and competition is strong. The UK’s approach is that only the very best sites should be nominated for inscription, and it has put in place a Technical Evaluation process for sites wishing to proceed to nomination.

Following the 2013 Expert Panel it was agreed that it would be useful to evaluate the process prior to the next round of assessment.

The results of that evaluation, which included consultation of panel members and applicant sites, inform this Brief and provide the basis for its recommendations, which are:

Conduct a further round of Technical Evaluation in autumn 2015; publish, and notify all relevant sites, of the timetable and process in spring 2015.

Organise briefing seminars, with mandatory attendance for those sites wishing to progress to the Expert Panel and for representatives from the national heritage agencies, covering the nomination process and crucial requirements. Actively encourage dialogue and iterative review of emerging evidence in liaison with national bodies. Discourage excessive presentational standards for material coming to the Expert Panel.

Promote a simple annual return for all sites on the Tentative List, indicating current intentions, likely timescales, and any significant changes. A possible model is provided in Appendix 1.

Implement the practical and administrative improvements to the Technical Evaluation and Expert Panel processes in Appendix 2.

Make provision for the UK component of any transnational proposals which have not already been through the Technical Evaluation process to be evaluated in an appropriate and comparable manner.

02

Background

The UK ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1984; 28 sites from the UK and its Overseas Territories have been inscribed to date. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has expressed concern that the balance of the WHS list does not yet equitably reflect global heritage. Particularly in the early days, those states with heritage management capacity to prepare nominations were able to progress more nominations, faster, than less well-resourced ones were.

UNESCO invited well-represented states to reduce their number of nominations voluntarily in order to help rebalance the global spread of World Heritage Sites. In 2008 the UK Government conducted a public review in to its policy on World Heritage (published early 2009). In January 2010, the UK government announced that it would continue to put forward nominations from a new shorter and more focused Tentative List, but not necessarily every year.

In accordance with UNESCO procedures, in 2011 the UK published its third Tentative List1 (an inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination); this was accepted by UNESCO in 2012.2 UNESCO advice is for lists to be reviewed at least every 10 years.

The UK’s approach is that only the very best sites, with clear Outstanding Universal Value, i.e. properties that meet at least one of the selection criteria for Inscription, have Integrity and (for cultural sites) Authenticity, and have appropriate arrangements for Protection and Management in place, should be nominated for inscription. The process of preparing and submitting a nomination is time consuming and expensive (estimated in 2008 at £400,000/ USD 596,300). For some, it inevitably ends in disappointment and perhaps a feeling that precious resources have been wasted.

1  http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/
2  updated to include one transnational nomination in July 2014
3  http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/
4  Department for Culture, Media and Sport, UK Government, News Release 2008; see also World Heritage Status: Is there opportunity for economic gain? Rebanks Consulting Ltd and Trends Business Research Ltd http://icomos.fa.utl.pt/documentos/2009/WHSTheEconomicGainFinalReport.pdf

03

The Technical Evaluation Process

A key recommendation of the 2011 Tentative List Report, accepted by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), was to put in place a ‘feasibility study’ phase to ensure both the viability of any given site as
a nomination and that any submissions are of the highest quality. Sites on the Tentative List wishing to proceed to nomination have therefore, since the publication of the current List, been required to participate in Technical Evaluation.

This involves submitting substantial evidence, in a prescribed manner which follows the UNESCO nomination format, for assessment by an Expert Panel (working either ex officio or pro bono). Prior to the panel meeting, seminars and workshops for applicants were held, and guidance produced for panel members.

Technical Evaluation panels were held in May 2012 and November 2013; nine sites have been formally assessed (some on both occasions).5 In each case one or two sites were recommended to proceed to nomination. Feedback was provided to all applicants; in some cases, areas for further work were identified, in others the site was not considered suitable to go forward for nomination.

Following the 2013 panel it was agreed that it would be useful to evaluate the process prior to the next round of assessment. The results of that evaluation, which included consultation of panel members and applicant sites, inform this Brief and provide the basis for its recommendations.

04

Findings of the consultation

The following observations and recommendations follow a consultation with 10 Technical Evaluation panel members and nine applicant sites.

4.1 The process as a whole

The Technical Evaluation process has demonstrably encouraged careful and timely preparation and high quality applications. It has provided helpful feedback to sites in the nomination process. For those sites assessed as unsuitable to progress further, it has truncated potentially fruitless further investment. However there is scope to improve the process, building on the experience of the first two rounds, and particularly to improve effectiveness by avoiding wasted effort and expenditure.

Some applicants reported difficulty in obtaining definitive information on timescales and sources of relevant information. This could be resolved by early publication on a central website of a timetable with all relevant deadlines and links to available information sources. DCMS and the national heritage agencies should agree respective responsibilities in relation to this, perhaps with DCMS as the UK State Party, taking lead responsibility and managing version control and other agencies providing links.

4.2 The Panel: clarity, transparency, expertise

The consultation process showed mixed understanding of the purpose and role of the Panel – for example to what extent it is advisory and/or adjudicatory? How many nominations might be recommended to go forward? And over what period of time? The Terms of Reference of the 2013 panel are attached as Appendix 3. These matters were addressed in a workshop for all Tentative List sites held in January 2012. However fading memories and/or staff changes may since have eroded that understanding.

There is also scope for improvement in defining and explaining the composition of the Panel. There is inevitably potential for conflicts of interest in a process relying on a fairly small pool of experts in a specialised field. The existing guidance and processes for managing these needs to be reviewed and made public, to avoid misperceptions. It is essential that the Panel has access to adequate expertise including people who can comment on the accuracy with which challenges are addressed. Where a site involving a particularly specialised area is coming to the Panel, there may be a case for involving a special advisor, possibly for that site only.

The purpose of the Panel is to provide a UK level objective assessment. All Panel members are there to contribute their expertise to that assessment, and are specifically precluded from lobbying for a site in which they may have a geographical or academic interest.

4.3 Approaches to minimise wasted investment

All those involved are concerned to minimise potentially wasted investment in applications which may never succeed. To go forward as a nomination, a site needs to demonstrate both the integral qualities required, and the appropriate management arrangements.

All three pillars of Outstanding Universal Value must be in place. These are: meeting the Criteria; Integrity and (for Cultural Sites) Authenticity; and Protection and Management. Management arrangements can sometimes be changed and improved. Although knowledge and understanding can be improved by additional research, even the most extensive research can only demonstrate meeting of criteria, and integrity (and authenticity) where these do actually exist. These aspects will therefore receive particular attention in the Technical Evaluation process. It is therefore highly beneficial to establish the existence or otherwise of these crucial elements, against a backdrop of comparative analysis, at an early stage. National heritage agencies should ensure that advice on OUV given to Tentative List sites during the preparation process is clear and consistent with current UNESCO Operational Guidelines. There is no purpose in sites which cannot make a robust case continuing to pursue nomination.

Further, it is premature and potentially wasteful to invest in detailed preparation, high quality visual design and presentation until there is some confidence that the case can be made. The key to this lies in promoting an iterative approach, starting with seminars where the process is explained to Tentative List sites, and continuing with dialogue and workshops involving national agencies and advisory bodies.

Tentative List sites should be encouraged to seek feedback as their submissions develop. They should also consider coming to the Panel with an early draft for advice and comment rather than waiting until they feel ready to seek nomination.

In this context, it is important to remember the definition of Outstanding Universal Value, which comprises meeting one or more of the criteria for Inscription, having sufficient Authenticity (for cultural sites) and Integrity, and demonstrating that effective Protection and Management arrangements are in place.

4.4 Effective Management of Tentative List

At present, there is no clear overview of the situation of the sites on the Tentative List, and their intentions as to whether or when to progress towards nomination. UKNC intends to instigate annual dialogue with these sites to collect this information (which will be shared with the devolved administrations and heritage agencies), to provide a central record of applications potentially coming forward and enable better and more effective forward planning of the nomination process, including ensuring appropriate panel expertise.

4.5 Effective Management of Tentative List

The review and consultation process identified a number of practical and administrative improvements to the Technical Evaluation and Expert Panel processes, which would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process for both applicants and panel members. These appear as Appendix 2.

4.6 Transnational Nominations

During the 2011 Review of the UK Tentative List, several transnational nominations were considered, and it was recommended that four of these should be considered for addition to the Tentative List if firm proposals for transnational nominations were fully developed by the other countries involved. During the period of this consultation, but independent of it, an issue arose as to how the UK should respond to new proposals for transnational nominations including one or more UK sites which have not been the subject of Technical Evaluation, where such proposals are led and promoted by one or more other States. To support international cooperation and to achieve consistency with the overall UK process, it is recommended that the UK components of proposals coming forward in this way should undergo some comparable form of evaluation. The appropriate approach will vary from proposal to proposal, but could involve an international evaluation of all elements of the potential nomination, or evaluation of the UK element by the Expert Panel evaluating sites already on the Tentative List.

05

Recommendations for DCMS

The Impact Review looked specifically at the legislative, policy, resource, and administrative changes that might be required if the UK were to ratify the Convention.

The Review found that the majority of the substantive clauses of the 2001 Convention appear to present no difficulty to the UK, and that the UK has world-leading experience in some particular areas. However there are some clauses which would require the UK to introduce new measures in policy and administration, and potentially in law, and to reallocate resources:

Conduct a further round of Technical Evaluation in autumn 2015. Publish and notify all relevant sites of the timetable and process in Spring 2015.

Review and publish the purpose, role and terms of reference of the panel at the point at which submissions are invited. Specify the composition of the panel, which should normally be institutional and representative rather than personal. Allow for the possibility of additional specialist advice to the Panel if necessary. Review, clarify and publish the guidelines on managing conflict of interest.

Organise briefing seminars, with mandatory attendance for those sites wishing to progress to the Expert Panel and representatives from the national heritage agencies, covering the nomination process and crucial requirements. Actively encourage dialogue and iterative review of emerging evidence in liaison with national bodies. Discourage excessive presentational standards for material coming to the Expert Panel.

Promote a simple annual return for all sites on the Tentative List, indicating current intentions, likely timescales, and any significant changes. A possible model is provided in Appendix 1.

Implement the practical and administrative improvements to the Technical Evaluation and Expert Panel processes in Appendix 2.

Make provision for the UK component of any transnational proposals which have not already been through the Technical Evaluation process to be evaluated in an appropriate and comparable manner.

DISCOVER

Discover all of our Policy Briefs

#Policy #PolicyBriefs

   Discover the #PolicyBriefs series        

DISCOVER

Discover our full Policy Programmes

#Policy #Advice

   Explore our #Policy programmes        

🔎 Browse #PolicyBriefs

The UK National Commission for UNESCO’s Policy Advice

We work with world-leading experts to advise the UK and devolved governments on UNESCO-related issues and to shape UNESCO’s programmes

From analysing global education goals to practical steps to implement UNESCO’s Recommendations, our advice helps ensure UNESCO’s work is effective and UK governments can fulfil their commitments as members of UNESCO

🌝    Visit Our Policy Advice   

next

Key issues on the Recommendation on Scientific Researchers

n°19