Phase I of the project, focusing on capacity building in the field of Natural World Heritage conservation and protection, was concluded in 2006 The premises for initiating the project was based on the poor thematic representation of African natural heritage sites on the World Heritage List and the overall weak implementation of the Convention in Africa.
Phase I consisted of organisation of a regional experts meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on capacity-building for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. The meeting was attended by professionals responsible for the World Natural Heritage conservation and protection in 10 countries from eastern and southern Africa.
The initiative to the project followed Norway’s commitment in the World Heritage Committee to strengthen the efforts towards the natural heritage of underrepresented regions.
The Periodic Report of UNESCO for Africa, encourages a more holistic approach to management of World Heritage properties. Previously, site management has emphasised technical conservation, whilst taking less consideration to the setting and surroundings of the site. There is a need to involve local communities and their lives, practices and beliefs. The report further states that in the majority of cases studied, the local communities are poor or disadvantaged economically. Succeeding to take these factors into consideration, the World Heritage sites will fulfil its objective to serve as a model for heritage management.
Studies by IUCN and UNESCO reveal that the most critical issues regarding the World Heritage Convention would require a focus directed at the thematic representation and management related issues, rather than any grand expansion in the number of sites on the continent.
Biodiversity and sustainable management are further reiterated in the pending Norwegian Government’s strategies for environment in developing cooperation (2006 – 2015). This ambitious plan also states that the UN-organisations and international conventions and agreements will be key factors for reaching the Norwegian Government’s ambitions of being a leading country in development cooperation and environment. The World Heritage Convention, one of five international conventions addressing biodiversity needs, serves as an instrumental action orientated mechanism for the protection of the World’s most valuable natural resources.
The IUCN Analysis of Natural and Mixed sites states that there are major gaps in the World Heritage coverage of certain biomes in Africa. The study also concludes that given the emphasis on the absolute need for all sites to be of outstanding universal value, there is a clear implication that there must be a finite number of existing and potential properties for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Further recommendations include the development of tentative lists and the use of serial and transboundary nominations as national tools for conservation.