How to Help Now.
Only 23 of the UNESCO World Heritage sites are located in the US, and none are in Ohio. But Ohioans are now working actively to advance the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks – currently on the US “Tentative List” which means they are eligible – to become inscribed. The U.S. Department of the Interior can begin the process through an announcement in the Federal Register to invite sites that are on the Tentative List to submit formal nominations for World Heritage consideration from UNESCO.
An Unnecessarily Political Issue.
The support for US World Heritage Nominations is threatened by our country’s non-payment of its UNESCO membership dues. Here’s the background: the US lost its vote in the UNESCO General Conference on November 8, 2013, two years after cutting off dues payments to the organization. This non-payment results from legislative restrictions passed by Congress in 1990 and 1994, and triggered when UNESCO member states voted to grant Palestine full membership as a state in 2011. The approximately $80 million in annual U.S. dues made up about 22% of the UNESCO annual budget. The United States’ non-payment of dues creates uncertainty in the World Heritage process, and observers expect that this issue may imperil future World Heritage nominations.
The Impact on US Involvement.
The loss of vote in the UNESCO General Conference is not a loss of US membership. As per the US Department of State, “The United States intends to continue its engagement with UNESCO in every possible way—we can attend meetings and participate in debate, and we will maintain our seat and vote as an elected member of the Executive Board until 2015.” Potential impact on US World Heritage Nominations from the Tentative list is less certain. No procedural hurdles exist to prevent the US from moving Tentative List nominations forward. However, conventional wisdom tells us that nominations can be adversely affected by the US non-payment of dues and our country’s decreased ability to participate in the organization.
What May Happen.
The nominations may experience hurdles when reviewed by the Committee. We cannot predict the result. However, the Committee may choose to (1) inscribe the site(s), (2) refer the nomination(s) for additional information and resubmission, (3) defer the nomination(s) for more study or revision, or (4) decline to inscribe the site(s).
Current Status of Other US Nominations:
The Poverty Point Louisiana nomination was reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in June 2014, and was approved for inscription. The Missions of San Antonio was approved for inscription in 2015. The Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings nomination is being submitted for vote in 2016.