From: Alice Taylor
UNESCO Calls on States to Mitigate Climate Change Risks Against World Heritage Sites

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre has extended its sympathy to those fighting and living alongside the wildfires that continue to ravage much of Southeast Europe.

In a statement published yesterday, they said they have observed with concern the large number of fires that had struck Greece, and countries including Albania, Turkey, North Macedonia, and Croatia.

“UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre extends its sympathy and solidarity with the people of the affected areas and commends the efforts of the competent authorities to cope with the situation and stands ready to mobilize technical support, the statement reads.”

They added that the fires are a result of the “many climate-change-related events threatening the world’s most treasured cultural and natural heritage sites.” UNESCO is working closely with authorities concerned to stay on top of the situation, they said.

At the 44th World Heritage Committee held in China in July and August, they called on States Parties to “urgently integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in risk preparedness policies and action plans, in order to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of all World Heritage properties.”

A draft of the Policy Document on Climate Action for World Heritage will be reviewed for adoption during the 23rd session of the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention in November 2021.

Albania is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Butrint, Gjirokaster, Berat, the Gashi River and Rrajce regions, and the Albanian side of Lake Ohrid. Tentative sites include the Amphitheatre of Durres, the Royal Tombs of Selca e Poshtme, the Ancient City of Apollonia, and Bashtova Castle.

The Albanian government is currently putting Gjirokaster’s status at risk by defying a UNESCO request to halt work on a bypass project. The multimillion-pound project, that has been awarded to a construction company owned by a woman who was a representative of the government agency who is managing the project, has been deemed risky as it takes place in a protected area.

Some 200 wildfires have been reported in Albania during the last few weeks.