UNESCO could declare Bethlehem a World Heritage site

UNESCO could declare Bethlehem a World Heritage Site

UNESCO could declare Bethlehem a World Heritage site
Romereports.com, 5 November 2011.

The Palestinian Authority was admitted to the UNESCO General Assembly on the Monday of October 31st, it was opposed by 14 nations, including Israel, the USA and Germany. This means that from now on, locations on their land can be declared a World Heritage Site. This includes places like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.

When a State becomes a member of UNESCO, they sign the World Heritage Convention, which governs the locations of World Heritage Sites.

As Palestine is now entitled to adhere to all conventions, they may submit nominations for the World Heritage List.

Until now it hasn’t been possible to protect certain places and shrines in the West Bank and Gaza Strip due to a lack of recognition and funding. However, their entry into UNESCO would introduce them to the world and help to promote the economies of these areas through tourism.



The Nativity, a UNESCO heritage site, doubts in the church of Bethlehem
Servizio Informazione Religiosa (agensir.it), 7 November 2011


The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a Unesco Heritage site as early as 2012? This is the hope of the Palestinian population since, on 31st October, Palestine has become a full member of Unesco, the UN agency for Culture, Science and Education. Palestinians will actually be in a position to ratify the 1972 world heritage convention, which will enable them to ask that some of their sites be included in Unesco heritage sites. However, as reported to SIR today by the Custodian of the Holy Land, father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, “The Custody, the Greek Patriarchate and the Armenian Patriarchate, which run the basilica of the Nativity, express doubts about such application to Unesco”. “We don’t have any problem with proclaiming the city of Bethlehem as a Unesco Heritage site – the Custodian states –. We are not too enthusiastic about the Nativity, instead. It is an initiative that makes it harder for us to run it, because, under Unesco rules, the board in charge of running a place for the UN agency is the Governmentm not the owner of a site. As a Custody, as the Greek Patriarchate and as the Armenian Patriarchate, we have asked the National Palestinian Authority to apply for the city only and leave out the basilica, which might be included later on, when the situation, including the political situation, will be quieter”.

Father Pizzaballa fears that “the holy places might be used for political reasons”, not least because of the recent application made by president Abu Mazen to the UN for acknowledgement of the Palestinian state. “Right now, we do not want to become, on, one hand, the keepers of places run by governments and, on the other hand, to be exploited for issues in which the holy places must not be involved”. The Palestinian Authority, as reported by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, had already formally presented, in February, the nomination of Bethlehem, Christ’s birthplace, as a World Heritage site. But, because of problems with its status, such application had been rejected. The application will be reviewed again in Saint Petersburg in June 2012, and the final decision will be taken one month later. The title of the file submitted by Palestinians for Bethlehem as a World Heritage Site is significant: “Jesus’ birthplace: the Church of the Nativity and the pilgrims’ way”. Bethlehem is the main tourist site in

the Palestinian Territories. The city hosted a record-breaking crowd of pilgrims last Christmas, and in 2010 it received about 1.5 million visitors. The goal for 2011 is to exceed two million.

» agensir.it


Arab League Asks UNESCO to Open Office in East Jerusalem,

Palestine News Network (PNN), 8 November 2011


Mohammed Aziz Ben Ashour, the general director of the Arab League Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ALESCO) asked UNESCO on Tuesday to open an office in East Jerusalem to document and protect against attacks on Arab Islamic and Christian heritage.

Ben Ashour told Palestinian government news wire Wafa on Monday that accepting Palestine as a member in UNESCO was a historical success for Palestinians and their cause. He continued that the presence of Palestine in UNESCO would act as a shield for its heritage and Palestinian identity.

He credited the UNESCO vote, which passed overwhelmingly last week and cost the UN body 22% of its funding when the US withdrew, to the efforts of Palestinian leaders and work by ALESCO.

Ben Ashour said that Palestinian membership in UNESCO opens doors in their quest to get attain full membership in the United Nations, starting with the defense of their heritage and identify. He expressed his happiness that Palestine would soon be able to repair its heritage sites and put them on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO Director-General launches Emergency Fund at close of General Conference
UNESCOPress, 10 November 2011


Gabon immediately announces $2m donation

The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova today launched an Emergency Multi-Donor Fund to help fill a shortfall resulting from dues withheld by the United States.  The Director-General made the announcement at the closing session of the General Conference.

The U.S withheld its contributions following the admission of Palestine to UNESCO on 31 October. They were required to do so by U.S. laws dating from the 1990s. This leaves UNESCO with an immediate shortfall of US$65m to the end of 2011, and a further gap of 22 percent in its US$653m budget for 2012-2013. Israel has now followed suit and withheld its contribution of US$1.5m (0.3 percent of UNESCO’s budget) for 2012-2013.

The U.S announcement stimulated an unprecedented outpouring of support for UNESCO from individuals, associations and private corporations from all corners of the globe. “I see these expressions of support as clear recognition of the good that UNESCO does in the world. These are very concrete indicators of success,” noted the Director-General.

The Fund will be open to all donors, from Member States to public institutions, foundations and individuals. The Government of Gabon immediately announced a donation of US$2m. The general public can now make donations online at www.unesco.org/donate

It is one of four emergency measures proposed by Irina Bokova to address the shortfall. The Director-General also:

·         Urged member States to support an immediate increase in the Organization’s Working Capital Fund for 2012-2013 from $30m to $65m.

·         Appealed to all Governments to provide their assessed contributions as early as possible in 2012.

·         Proposed to defer the system by which those Member States that pay their dues on time benefit from a reduction.

To cover the funding gap to the end of 2011, the Director-General told the General Conference that UNESCO had already begun a thorough review of all of the Organization’s activities planned for November and December. “I have temporarily interrupted certain activities to revise their costs,” Irina Bokova said.  .

“I am well aware that this situation is also an opportunity to accelerate reform,” she continued. “I am absolutely ready to completely revise our action, working methods and structures within the Secretariat.”

The Director-General’s address was made during the final plenary of the 36thsession of the General Conference, which closed today.


General Conference admits Palestine as UNESCO Member State
UNESCOPress, 31 October 2011

For its membership to take effect*, Palestine must sign and ratify UNESCO’s Constitution which is open for signature in the archives of the Government of the United Kingdom in London.

Palestine’s entry will bring the number of UNESCO’s Member States to 195.

The vote was carried by 107 votes in favour of admission and 14 votes against, with 52 abstentions.

Admission to UNESCO for states that are not members of the United Nations requires a recommendation by the Organization’s Executive Board and a two thirds majority vote in favour by the General Conference of Member States present and voting (abstentions are not considered as votes).

The General Conference consists of the representatives of the States Members of the Organization. It meets every two years, and is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Each Member State has one vote, irrespective of its size or the extent of its contribution to the budget.

The General Conference determines the policies and the main lines of work of the Organization. Its duty is to set the programmes and the budget of UNESCO. It also elects the Members of the Executive Board and appoints, every four years, the Director-General.

* c.f UNESCO Constitution, Article XV, on “Entry into force”

Palestine Vote: Statement by UNESCO Director-General






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