UNESCO: Reflecting the natural and cultural wealth that belongs to all of humanity, World Heritage sites and monuments constitute crucial landmarks for our world. They symbolise the consciousness of States and peoples of the significance of these places and reflect their attachment to collective ownership and to the transmission of this heritage to future generations.
After many years of preparation in working groups, NGO's, governments and parliaments the Wadden-region almost made it to the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. I say "almost" because today the government of the German city of Hamburg finally declared to be against the proposal. And because all parties should agree: it's all over now.
Is this good or bad news? What does it mean for seakayakers? The Wadden region is such a fantastic seakayaking site because of it's outstanding natural beauty, landscape and wildlife. We do have a serious interest in adequate preservation measures. The inscription of a site on the World Heritage List brings an increase in public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site. When these are well planned for and organised respecting sustainable tourism principles, they can bring important funds to the site and to the local economy.
I am convinced seakayakers respect sustainable tourism principles and as an optimist by nature: I believe we would have profited of the UNESCO status in the long term .
But will it chance much? Is the Wadden Region lost and unprotected without the UNESCO status? Don't worry: the protected status comes anyway for a big deal from National and European rules, and not from the UNESCO. It won't make much difference.
The sad thing about this news: despite all good words policy makers and governments are still thinking in opposites between economical interests and ecological principles. There is a long way to go for a more sustainable future.
The 'first conclusion that the "No" of Hamburg's parliament would stop the complete process of nomination for the Wadden Region was premature: Dutch and German National government decided to proceed with the nomination for the rest of the Wadden region - see this document with the recent letter of Minister Verburg for the Dutch Parliament - the meaning of the UNESCO nomination and the relation with is clearly explained in this letter.