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World Heritage

Statement by U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion on the Emergency Inscription of the Church of the Nativity as a World Heritage Site

June 29, 2012

The United States is profoundly disappointed by the decision of the World Heritage Committee to take immediate emergency action as proposed by the Palestinians to inscribe the “Birthplace of Jesus: the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem” as a World Heritage site against the official recommendation of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, the expert advisory body that evaluated the site.   

The site is sacred to all Christians; it clearly has tremendous religious and historical significance. However, the emergency procedure used in this instance is reserved only for extreme cases, specifically when a site is under imminent threat of destruction.  In the 40 years of the World Heritage Convention’s existence, the emergency procedure has been used only four times and only in the most extreme cases, and always consistent with the recommendation of the advisory bodies.  This body should not be politicized.