The high-level St. Kitts and Nevis delegation attending the 21st General Assembly of the States’ Parties to the World Heritage Convention on 14 November 2017 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris were, in the words of Ambassador Hull, “overjoyed on hearing that the Federation had been elected to the prestigious and influential World Heritage Committee.”
At the convening of some 193 States’ Parties to the World Heritage Convention in Paris, St. Kitts and Nevis found itself elected amongst eleven other new members to the World Heritage Committee: Australia, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, China, Guatemala, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Spain and Uganda.
Noted Ambassador Hull, head of the St. Kitts and Nevis mission to the OAS who led the delegation with Evelyn Henville, chairperson of the Nevis World Heritage Committee, “St. Kitts and Nevis access to the World Heritage Committee is a double honor, first as one of the few small island developing states with a compelling heritage site Brimstone Hill, and secondly, to serve on the most influential UNESCO organ and leverage our expertise and experience in the interests of the States’ Parties”.
Added Mrs. Henville, who is the Federation’s Official Representative to this Committee, “The role bestowed on St. Kitts and Nevis is huge in terms of responsibility and influence which goes beyond our small island state. We welcome the challenge”. She will be supported by other members of the Nevis World Heritage Committee.
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, one of the oldest UNESCO organs, selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States’ Parties. It is composed of 21 state parties that are elected by the General Assembly of States’ Parties for a four-year term.
The World Heritage Committee itself meets once a year to discuss the management review of existing World Heritage Sites (some 160 reports were examined in 2017), accept the nominations for inscriptions from member countries and review the Heritage Fund and international assistance requests. The next Committee meeting will be held in Bahrain on 24 June to 4 July 2018.
The current composition of the World Heritage Committee of 21 States’ Parties to the World Heritage Convention now includes Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Cuba, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Someone else who was delighted with the election of the Federation to the World Heritage Committee was H.E. Dr. David P. Doyle, Paris-based Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of St. Kitts and Nevis to UNESCO. He stated that “months of lobbying and bilateral meetings with States’ Parties at UNESCO in Paris has clearly paid-off. Our ability to not only contribute to policy development in the field of heritage preservation on an international scale, but also to gain new competencies and assistance in developing our heritage site at Brimstone Hill”.
In her post-election speech, Mrs. Henville noted that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis strongly supports the special attention given by UNESCO to the challenges, identity and protection of cultural heritage in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). “The 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Seville of June 2009, in particular, brought SIDS to the forefront of the World Heritage Programme. A resolution tabled at this session called upon the World Heritage Centre, in respect of heritage activities in SIDS, to further develop the Caribbean Capacity-Building Programme and to introduce a similar regional capacity-building programme for SIDS in the Africa and Pacific regions. St. Kitts and Nevis will now have an opportunity to defend this commitment further”.
The Delegation extended its appreciation for the assistance received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the minister responsible for UNESCO affairs, the Hon. Minister Shawn Richards, Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Premier, the Hon. Vance Amory, the Permanent Mission of the Organisation of American States in Washington DC, and the Permanent Delegation of St. Kitts & Nevis to UNESCO in Paris.
St. Kitts and Nevis has a credible legacy associated with heritage conservation and promotion. Shortly after its independence, the Federation ratified the World Heritage Convention, in 1986, declaring its commitment to the preservation and protection of the cultural heritage in the twin-island nation.
In 1999, Brimstone Hill Fortress was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as a well-preserved fortress on a hill on the island of St. Kitts, and originally designed by British military engineers, and built and maintained by enslaved Africans. Today, it ranks as one of the best-preserved historical fortifications in the Americas.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is preparing a project for the inscription of historic Charlestown (Nevis) to be listed on the World Heritage List, and has created a dedicated Nevis World Heritage Committee to oversee the process.
Secretary-General of the National Commission for UNESCO in St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Antonio Maynard, who joined in the lobbying exercise leading up to the World Heritage Committee elections, stated that St. Kitts and Nevis would strive to make a constructive contribution to the affairs of the Committee, “especially in order to solidify and enhance inter-Caribbean regional state cooperation in the field of heritage preservation and promote sub-regional UNESCO heritage initiatives for benefit to multiple small states”.
The High-level St. Kitts and Nevis delegation attending the World Heritage meeting also included Mr. Percival Hanley, General Manager of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park Society, and Suzanne Gordon, Vice-Chair of the Nevis World Heritage Committee.