World Heritage

The Benefits of World Heritage Status in Russian Practice

Unquestionably, World Heritage status brings with it numerous advantages, both in terms of nature conservation and in garnering comprehensive support for territories inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention, or Convention) offers its States Parties and their inscribed sites broad legal, informational, economic, and networking opportunities, which have been developing and improving for more than three decades.

Benefits of World Heritage Status for Natural World Heritage Sites:

  • Additional guarantees of the full preservation and integrity of unique natural areas.
  • Increase in the prestige of natural areas and the institutions governing them.
  • Increase in the popularity of territories inscribed on the World Heritage List.
  • Greater capacity to attract financial support for World Heritage sites, first and foremost from the World Heritage Fund.
  • Development of alternative types of natural resource use, including ecological tourism and traditional trades.
  • Organization of monitoring and inspection of conservation activities in natural areas.

At present, the Convention is one of the most effective global instruments to protect natural and cultural objects. The need to fulfill obligations within the framework of the Convention, as well as the attention and scrutiny international experts and the global community as a whole give to inscribed sites, has helped put a stop a number of industrial or economic projects, which, if carried out, would have been harmful to Russian natural World Heritage objects. Illustrative examples of this are Lake Baikal, the Golden Mountains of Altai, the Virgin Komi Forests, and the Western Caucasus, where the necessity of regulating economic activity on the World Heritage object stimulated a number of nature conservation activities. In the case of Lake Baikal, for instance, World Heritage status helped facilitate the adoption of a new federal conservation law, "On Protecting Lake Baikal". World Heritage status also helped prevent the construction of a road through the territory of Kavkazsky Zapovednik, which is part of the Western Caucasus World Heritage site, and helped preserve the territorial integrity of Yugyd Va National Park, which is part of the Virgin Komi Forests site.

The prestige associated with World Heritage status can serve as motivation for placing new territories under protection. During the preparation of several natural World Heritage nominations, local governments have adopted decisions to expand existing specially protected nature areas and create new ones. For instance, during work on the Bashkirian Urals nomination (this nomination was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in 1998, but not selected for inscription), the government of the Republic of Bashkiria agreed to establish an entomological special purpose reserve, Altyn Solok Zakaznik (93,580 hectares). In 1997, during the preparation process of the Western Caucasus nomination, four specially protected nature areas, with a total combined area of 12,869 hectares were created in the Republic of Adygea. Together with Kavkazsky Biosphere Zapovednik, these four protected areas – one nature park and three nature monuments - all received World Heritage status in 1999. The preparation of the Central Sikhote-Alin nomination facilitated the creation of a 746,484 hectare regional-level special purpose landscape reserve, Verkhnebikinsky Zakaznik, as well as the preparation of documents necessary to create Udege Legend National Park (according to a January 23, 2006, press release from Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry is currently approving with stakeholder ministries and organs documents related to the creation of Udege Legend National Park, as well as three other national parks.)

With World Heritage status often comes wider recognition and a higher profile. Numerous activities have been undertaken to popularize Russia's natural World Heritage sites. A variety of printed promotional materials such as hardcover album-style books, calendars, and booklets, have been published. A series of video films was produced and information about Russia's World Natural Heritage sites was posted on numerous websites, including that of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. High profile events such as international expeditions to Russian natural complexes during the nomination preparation process, visits by UNESCO and World Conservation Union (IUCN) experts to Russian sites, and World Heritage inscription ceremonies have made specially protected nature areas with World Heritage status more attractive to local government and business, and, in a number of cases, targets of concrete financial and technical assistance.

Several Russian World Natural Heritage sites have also received financial support from international governments and organizations. For example, Pechoro-Ilychsky Zapovednik, which is part of the Virgin Komi Forests World Heritage site, has received targeted support through the Komi Model Forest Project, a boreal forest conservation initiative financed by the Swiss Agency of Development and Cooperation and implemented by the World Wide Fund for Nature (1996-2002) and the Silver Taiga Foundation (2002-2006).

Another important foreign donor for Russia's World Natural Heritage sites has been the United Nations Development /Global Environmental Facility (UNDP/GEF). Currently, UNDP/GEF is implementing a US$13.8 million (with GEF funding totaling US$7.6 million, and CIDA funding totaling US$3.1 million) project, "Biodiversity Conservation in Four Specially Protected Areas on the Kamchatka Peninsula: A Demonstration of the Sustainable Approach", which specifically targets four components of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka World Heritage site. Another UNDP/GEF initiative that, when approved by Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources, will create new funding opportunities for a Russian natural World Heritage site is the "Biodiversity Conservation in the Russian Part of the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion" Project. The project, which has a total project budget of US$6 million (with GEF funding totaling US$3.5 million), incorporates the Golden Mountains of Altai World Heritage site. UNDP/GEF project, "Biodiversity Conservation of Virgin Forests in the Upper Reaches of the Pechora River", which incorporates the Virgin Komi Forests World Heritage site is in progress.

The German World Heritage Foundation, working together with the Russian "Natural Heritage Protection Fund", has, in recent years provided funding to a number of Russian specially protected nature areas that are inscribed on the World Heritage List. In 2003-2004, these two organizations awarded grants to facilitate internet access for Kronotsky Zapovednik, which is part of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka site and Zabaikalsky National Park, which is a component of the Lake Baikal site. In 2005, the two funds assisted Yugyd Va National Park, which is a component of the Virgin Komi Forests site, in creating infrastructure for ecological tourism development. The German World Heritage Foundation also recently convened and approved the purchase of transportation for Yuzhno-Kamchatsky Zakaznik.

In 2006, a project "Specific Nature Conservation Measures in the Volga delta" has been launched with the support of European Nature Heritage Fund (Euronature). In the framework of the project the biosphere reserve Astrakhansky and the Stepnoy Game Reserve (Zakaznik) will be supported with technical equipment and implements.

Despite the isolated examples mentioned above, significant efforts have not been undertaken in Russia to use natural World Heritage site status to improve the socio-economic situation in the regions where the sites are located. For a number of reasons, natural World Heritage status in Russia has heretofore been used for a single goal: to attract international legal instruments to mitigate the impacts of development activities on World Heritage sites and on surrounding territories. This "one-sided" approach in implementing the Convention can instigate conflicts with host subjects (of the Federation), with territorial organs of local management, which in turn, could stall the process of nominating new territories.

To create a positive image of World Heritage status, it is important that work be undertaken to demonstrate that it is not a prohibitive mechanism, but a mechanism for alternative development. In the short-term, industrial development projects may yield greater economic benefits than those brought by traditional trades, ecological tourism, or participation in international partnership activities, such as the Partnerships for Conservation Initiative (PACT) Programme. However, in the long-term, an overwhelming majority of territories subject to industrial development lose a great number of their valuable qualities, which makes them unfit for recreational, scientific, educational, and nature conservation purposes.

World Heritage Status Brings Sites Increased Opportunities for International Collaboration and Assistance

The World Heritage Convention calls upon the international community to participate in the protection of cultural and natural heritage of universal value through the provision of collective assistance. The Convention also establishes procedures and channels through which States Parties may request international assistance for cultural or natural heritage sites within their territories. The Convention further established a Fund for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of Outstanding Universal Value, called the "World Heritage Fund", which functions as a trust fund from which the World Heritage Committee can allocate funding. A brief overview of this important resource, as well as other select key sources of support that have evolved since the Convention was adopted by UNESCO in 1972, follows below.

The World Heritage Fund

The World Heritage Fund was created in 1972 by the Convention with the purpose of assisting States Parties in identifying, preserving, and promoting World Heritage sites. Contributions to the Fund are made by States Parties, on a compulsory or voluntary basis. The World Heritage Committee allocates funding on a priority basis, with particular focus on the most threatened sites, as well as on sites situated in developing countries. Annually, about $4 million is made available to States Parties requesting assistance in one of the following five categories: preparatory assistance, technical cooperation, emergency assistance, training, and educational and promotional assistance. The majority of awarded grants do not exceed US$30,000, although some projects valued at than US$100,000 have been funded. Russia received US$30,000 from the World Heritage Fund to carry out a training seminar in 1999 targeting the needs of natural heritage sites.

The Partnerships for Conservation Initiative (PACT) Programme

Launched in 2002 by the World Heritage Centre, PACT is a solutions-oriented approach to sustainable World Heritage conservation, which aims to raise awareness and to mobilize sustainable recourses for the long-term conservation of World Heritage. It aims to involve a network of companies, foundations, conservation and research institutions, and media organizations interested in assisting in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. Funding priority is given to sites inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, as well as to World Heritage conservation initiatives addressing themes such as sustainable tourism, forests, cities, earthen architecture, and marine sites. PACT is also working to expand the existing network of bilateral and multilateral partnership and intergovernmental institutions to maintain a system of international cooperation. Under the auspices of this initiative, agreements concerning the incorporation of World Heritage into development programs have been concluded with such diverse partners as: the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme/Global Environmental Facility (UNDP-GEF) Small Grants Programme, the Agence Francaise de Developpement, the European Union, and the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation.

United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation is one of the World Heritage Centre's major partners. The Foundation, established in 1998 with Ted Turner's $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities, has partnered with the World Heritage Centre to support and promote the management and conservation of natural World Heritage sites. Since its inception, the Foundation has contributed over US$32 million for the effective management and protection of natural World Heritage sites.


Funds-in-Trust are donations given by countries to support specific projects with defined goals and objectives. Funds-in-Trust projects have been established with the Governments of the Netherlands, France, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and with Flemish authorities.

Compiled using the UNESCO World Heritage Centre's "World Heritage Information Kit".