Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
October 11, 2005
Contact: Dan DuBray

United Nations Organization Votes to Include U.S. as Voting Member of World Heritage Committee
Interior Secretary Norton: "Once again, America has a seat at the table."

WASHINGTON -Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton has announced that participating nations in the international Convention on World and Cultural Heritage in Paris, France have elected the United States as a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee in the first round of voting.

"Here at home, this administration has emphasized the principle that conservation can usually best be achieved through communication, consultation and cooperation among governments, the private sector, local stakeholders and other organizations," Secretary Norton said today. "As of today, the U.S. delegation to the World Heritage Committee will work to bring the fundamentals of Cooperative Conservation to the international community. We will also vigorously assert our national sovereignty during future deliberations over World Heritage Sites in an effort to help restore the credibility of the Convention across our nation and in the United States Congress. Once again, America has a seat at the table."

Committee nations jointly control the usage of the World Heritage Fund and govern the inclusion of sites on the international World Heritage List. Most of the 20 U.S. sites currently included on the World Heritage List are units of the Interior Department's National Park Service. Among the 820 international sites currently on the list are the Pyramids of Egypt, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal in India and the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

"U.S. participation in the World and Cultural Heritage Convention was to help spread the uniquely American idea of the national park around the globe," Secretary Norton added. "To strengthen the credibility and currency of World Heritage designation we must ensure that future nominations and designations of new sites be those that have true global significance."

The international UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted in 1972. The United States is the first of 180 nations to have signed the agreement and was one of the principal architects of the Convention. In addition to the United States, also elected as committee members during the first round of balloting were Canada, Israel, the Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia. The vote occurred at the 15th General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention held this week in Paris.