The World Heritage List
The World Heritage List includes 890 properties forming cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. This list includes
779 cultural, 197 natural and 31 mixed properties distributed amongst 131 States Parties. Since April 2014, 191 States Parties have ratified the World Heritage Convention.
The UNESCO General Conference, which met in Paris between 17 October and 21 November 1972, took the decision to create this list based, amongst other things, on the following considerations:
1. Cultural and natural heritage is increasingly threatened with destruction not only by the traditional causes of decay, but also by changing social and economic conditions which aggravate the situation with even more formidable phenomena of damage or destruction,
2. The deterioration or disappearance of any item of cultural or natural heritage constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world,
3. The protection of this heritage at the national level often remains incomplete because of the scale of the resources required and the insufficient economic, scientific, and technological resources of the country where the property to be protected is situated.
Some of the most famous sites included on this list are: the Kremlin, Timbuktu, the Palace of Versailles, Abu Simbel, the Historic Areas of Istanbul, The Pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, etc.
or industrial sites such as the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Zollverein complex, Ironbridge, New Lanark, etc.
The major mining sites of Wallonia: from the tentative list for inclusion
In 2008, the Regions of Wallonia and Brussels decided to update the tentative world heritage list based on recommendations from the World Heritage Committee. The tentative list includes the properties that each State intends to nominate for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Priority was given to categories rarely or not represented and the following were nominated: The cultural landscape of the Hautes-Fagnes, the Bavay-Tongeren† section of the Boulogne-Cologne Roman Road, the thermal complex at Spa, the Palace of the Prince-Bishops, the battlefield at Waterloo, the panorama of Waterloo, the citadels along the River Meuse, the major mining sites of Wallonia.
Once these nominations had been accepted, the Director of the Heritage Centre came, in October 2008, to visit certain proposed sites. Following his visit, the complex formed by the mining sites emerged as deserving of inclusion on the list of world heritage sites and the Minister for Heritage tasked the Walloon Region with compiling a dossier for this purpose. The dossier was submitted in January 2009 to the World Heritage Centre.
On 6 October 2009, Mr Helmut Albrecht, professor at the University of Freiburg, representative of ICOMOS, came to conduct an expert appraisal of the four sites, accompanied by specialists.
In July 2010, the World Heritage Committee held its 34th session in the young World Heritage Listed city of Brasilia, which was celebrating its jubilee that year. Included amongst the forty or so nominations for inclusion on the prestigious list were the major Belgian mining sites, the dossier for which was due to be examined.
In Belgium, there was no suspense, no frenzy, just the expectation of confirmation. Indeed, for several weeks, those in charge of the sites and the Walloon Region knew that ICOMOS International was going to suggest to the World Heritage Committee that the registration be postponed. Was there disappointment? Certainly, as it is always difficult to fail so close to your objective. But can it really be called a failure? Not really, because while the Walloon site was not included, the opinion of ICOMOS International, which was not called into question by the Committee, contained a number of highly positive points. The most important is that it recognised the appropriateness of the selection of sites (The Grand-Hornu, Bois-du-Luc, the Bois du Cazier colliery and Blegny-Mine) but especially that it recognised the exceptional universal value of the complex made up of the four sites. This exceptional universal value is the fundamental condition for inclusion on the World Heritage List.
Then why did they not decide to include the sites? The reasons are essentially two-fold: protection of the sites and the lack of coordinated management. Indeed, when the Minister in charge of Heritage decided, in September 2008, to prepare the dossier for submission, the sites were reviewed and coordinated in view of the application. The findings were clear: Blegny-Mine did not benefit from any heritage-related recognition or protection. The other sites are listed, with two even included on the outstanding heritage list. Nevertheless, the existing classifications were insufficient: thus at Grand-Hornu, the estate surrounding the industrial buildings was not listed; at Bois-du-Luc a number of elements of the mining village and the slag heaps were not protected; at Bois du Cazier certain artefacts were not protected, such as the shared grave of several victims of the disaster and the commemorative memorials erected in the municipal cemetery. A nomination dossier for inclusion on the World Heritage List must also provide for the creation of a buffer zone. This requirement corresponds to our notion of a protection zone: a listed property is not an isolated entity. It is located within an environment with which it interacts. Effective protection must therefore take such interactions into account and manage them. Protection zones were, therefore, defined for each of the sites. Ad hoc procedures had, therefore, been initiated but had not been completed during examination for the application. Nevertheless, there was an element of satisfaction: with the exception of the protection zone around Bois-du-Luc which had been deemed too restricted, the scope of the classification and the protection zones was not called into question.
Another comment was made in relation to the lack of coordinated management of the four sites. The management of each site was not questioned, but the lack of any coordination, any shared project.
Conscious of the weaknesses of the nomination dossier and sharing ICOMOS Internationalís analysis, the Walloon authorities did not wait for the decision before attempting to remedy the weak points, in particular by setting up an informal working group bringing together managers from the sites and the department of heritage. In January 2011, they submitted an additional nomination dossier to UNESCO.
In the meantime, the administrations concerned and the managers of the sites got down to responding point by point to the deficiencies mentioned above. This led to two practical decisions, essential for the success of the dossier, namely the adoption by the Walloon government, on 22 August 2011, of various classification orders relating to the sites (or parts of the sites) and the protection zones, and the creation, by the same government, on 25 August 2011, of the Walloon World Heritage Committee.
These two decisions were presented to the ICOMOS expert, Mr Helmut Albrecht, who, at the end of September 2011, came to the sites to observe if there had been any developments with the dossier.
This Walloon committee, common to all the Walloon sites recognised as World Heritage Sites or nominated for inclusion, resulted in the establishment, on 25 October 2011, of three committees specific to the major mining sites, namely a management committee and a scientific committee, headed by a steering committee.
Since then, the management committee has been working, under the leadership of the Heritage Institute of Wallonia, to create a draft management plan which was submitted to the steering committee on 1 June 2012 and also copied to ICOMOS. The scientific committee has also recently held its first meetings.
During its 36th session, in Saint-Petersburg, the World Heritage Committee re-examined the dossier and announced, on 1st July 2012, its decision to include the major mining sites of Wallonia on the World Heritage List.