Environmental NGOs back up IUCN position on no-go for extractives in World Heritage sites

Nine world leading conservation organisations are urging governments and private companies to commit not to carry out extractive activities in areas inscribed on the World Heritage List. Announced today at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, the call backs up the long-standing position of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and its advisory body on nature IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature.

World Heritage sites are recognised as the world’s most important natural areas but are exposed to increasing threats by oil-and-gas, and mining projects. Today’s joint call by Zoological Society of London, African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna & Flora International, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Nature Conservancy, The WILD Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF stresses the need for urgent action to protect these unique places from potential or existing  extractive activities.

Projects from mining, oil and gas pose a major threat affecting about a quarter of the world’s most iconic natural areas, with African World Heritage sites being most threatened. For example, oil concessions have been granted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park – Africa’s oldest park boasting the highest concentration of biodiversity on the continent.

To date, several private organisations have made crucial commitments not to carry out extractive projects within World Heritage sites, including the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), Royal Shell Plc and Tiffany & Co jeweller. Oil-and-gas giant SOCO is expected to formally confirm a similar commitment to the World Heritage Committee. Financial institutes JP Morgan, HSBC and Deutsche Bank also took the position not to finance projects that put sites’ Outstanding Universal Values at risk.

Earlier this year, the World Heritage Committee urged other private-sector companies to follow suit. But threats from extractive industries remain high, as concessions continue to be made in parts of the world.

IUCN’s position is that mineral and oil/gas exploration and exploitation (including associated infrastructure and activities) is incompatible with the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage Sites and should not be permitted within these sites.

IUCN welcomes the statement issued today in support of its position, which is available in English and French here. The NGO statement can be downloaded on this page.