- The President of the UN Foundation, Timothy E. Wirth, and the President of Conservation International (CI), Russell Mittermeier, today announced a three-year $15 million partnership to protect and conserve the world's most biodiversity-rich places. Working with the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Foundation and CI seek to collaborate on the development of projects in proposed or existing natural World Heritage Sites. The partnership will enhance the impact of the World Heritage Convention, designed to work with UN member states to identify and protect sites of natural or cultural heritage. The Convention was ratified in 1972 by 167 member states and is currently celebrating its 30th Anniversary.
The United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) has identified the conservation of biodiversity as one of its top priorities, and is directly supporting World Heritage sites through strategic grant making. Of the 730 designated World Heritage Sites, 144 have been inscribed as natural sites, and of these the UN Foundation works to sustain sites that are inscribed for their biological value. The Foundation promotes replicable conservation approaches, builds greater public awareness about the need to protect biodiversity, and creates effective partnerships to bring additional resources to World Heritage sites.
"The Foundation's efforts help facilitate collaboration between governments, corporations, non-governmental organizations and individuals to achieve maximum impact in natural World Heritage sites," said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation. "These partnerships help sustain both communities and the future of humanity by preserving our world's most treasured resources."
Through CI, the World Heritage Center will be able to tap into existing networks in order to bring on-the-ground conservation capacity to their efforts. CI's strengths include conservation science, protected area management, conservation enterprise development, training, communications, and working with business, government, communities and indigenous populations.
"With 16 out of 25 global biodiversity hotspots having World Heritage Sites, this partnership will be tremendously beneficial in providing the essential on-the-ground work to protect them," said CI President Russell Mittermeier. "This is exactly the kind of important partnership Conservation International welcomes to successfully implement our global ecosystem approach of conserving biodiversity." CI's strategic focus emphasizes protection of the world's 25 global biodiversity hotspots, where more than 60 percent of all terrestrial species diversity is found within just 1.4 percent of the Earth's land surface.
Up to $15 million will support initiatives developed collaboratively by the UN Foundation, CI, UNESCO's World Heritage Center and would target regions where focus could generate significant conservation results. A recent collaboration between the UN Foundation, CI, and Flora and Fauna International led to the Cambodian government's decision to designate a 1,000,000-acre (402,000-hectare) area in southwestern Cambodia's Central Cardamom Mountains as a protected area. The Cardamoms, which Cambodia plans to nominate as a World Heritage site, are home to most of Cambodia's large mammals and half of the country's birds, reptiles and amphibians. Two wildlife sanctuaries border the area, bringing the total land under protection to 2.44 million acres (990,000 hectares), forming the largest, and most pristine wilderness in mainland Southeast Asia.
The UN Foundation is also exploring a similar partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The UN Foundation and WWF have already partnered in efforts to conserve World Heritage sites in the Galapagos Islands and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said, "By partnering with the World Heritage Centre, the UN Foundation has strengthened our capacities to reach our objectives and attract new partners for World Heritage conservation. Indeed, the principle aim of the forthcoming World Heritage Congress is the development of targeted partnerships for site protection and preservation."
The United Nations Foundation
promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the United Nations and its Charter. Through its grant-making and by building new and innovative public-private partnerships, the United Nations Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century.