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UNESCO World Heritage Convention: Congressional Issues
Luisa Blanchard (au)
The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention) identifies and helps protect international sites of such exceptional ecological, scientific, or cultural importance that their preservation is considered a global responsibility. Under the Convention, which entered into force in 1975, participating countries nominate sites to be included on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger (Danger List).Countries that are party to the Convention agree to protect listed sites within their borders and refrain from actions that might harm such sites in other countries. Members of Congress have generally supported the World Heritage Convention. In the mid-1990s, some Members expressed concern that designating U.S. lands and monuments as World Heritage sites would infringe on national sovereignty. However, U.S. participation in the Convention does not give UNESCO or the UN authority over U.S. World Heritage sites or related land-management decisions. In addition, some Members have expressed concern with what they view as the limited role of Congress in nominating U.S. World Heritage Sites. Under current law, Congress is involved in the nomination of U.S. sites only to the extent that the Assist. Sec. for Fish and Wildlife and Parks is required to notify the House Comm. on Natural Resources and the Senate Comm. on Energy and Nat. Resources regarding which sites he or she plans to nominate for inclusion on the World Heritage List. This report provides background information on the World Heritage Convention, outlines U.S. participation and funding, and highlights criteria for adding and removing sites from the World Heritage Lists. It discusses possible issues for the 111th Congress, including the Convention’s possible impact on U.S. sovereignty, the role of the legislative branch in designating sites, and the potential implications for a site’s inclusion on the Lists. Table.
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