The World Heritage Convention and Indigenous Peoples
FFP E-Newsletter, October 2012

LONDON, UK: This article provides an overview of issues related to indigenous peoples’ experiences of the inscription of their lands and resources as World Heritage Sites under the 1972 World Heritage Convention. In some cases the Convention has been a tool for indigenous peoples to use in protecting their lands – the case of the Mirarr people in Kakadu, Australia, using the World Heritage Convention to halt Uranium mining in their lands stands out. However, far too often the processes of the World Heritage Convention, and the Committee which oversees its implementation, result in violation of the rights of indigenous peoples. In order to examine these experiences more closely and draw out the lessons that need to be learnt, Forest Peoples Programme and the International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) are drawing together a book detailing indigenous peoples’ experiences with this Convention. This joins other international efforts already undertaken aimed at highlighting the urgent need for reforms in the World Heritage Convention work processes, including the IUCN Motion on the World Heritage Convention and the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In September, an International Expert Workshop on the World Heritage Convention and Indigenous Peoples was organized as part of the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, celebrated by UNESCO under the theme “World Heritage and Sustainable Development: The Role of Local Communities”. The ‘Call for Action’ resulting from this Workshop highlights the need for the Operational Guidelines of the Convention to be reviewed and adapted – with the effective participation of indigenous peoples – to ensure that existing working practices can be changed to ensure violations do not continue. It also highlights the need for human rights considerations to be taken into account. Read the article …