On December 12, 2013, ASLA Executive Vice President Nancy
Somerville, Hon. ASLA sent a letter
to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urging her to work with
Congress to find a solution that would allow the United States to continue its
participation in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention after losing its UNESCO vote
for failure to pay dues.
“Unfortunately, this non-payment of UNESCO dues may have
some unintended consequences” said Somerville.
“If steps are not taken, the designation of World Heritage sites in the
United States, including two recently nominated sites: the Poverty Point site
in northeastern Louisiana; and the San Antonio Franciscan Missions could be in
Recently, the United States formally lost its vote in UNESCO
due to the non-payment of dues because of a law that prevents the United
States’ involvement in organizations that grant membership to an entity that
does not have internationally recognized attributes of statehood. In 2011, UNESCO added Palestine as a full
member, which triggered the law and prevented the U.S. from paying its UNESCO
Last summer, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed
an amendment, as part of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and
Related Programs Appropriations bill that would have allowed the U.S. to pay a
portion of its UNESCO dues that could go toward the World Heritage Fund, which
could help in supporting the U.S. nominations for World Heritage Sites. However, congressional budget negotiations
stalemated, prevented this measure from moving forward. With a recent budget deal announced by
Senator Patty Murray (WA) and Congressman Paul Ryan (WI), there may be another
opportunity to craft a solution for the World Heritage Fund.
Since 1954, UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention has
designated 900 World Heritage Sites,
with 21 in the United States, including the Grand Canyon, the Redwood National
and State parks, the Everglades, Taos Pueblo, the Great Smokey Mountains, and
others. “Designating World Heritage
Sites, not only helps preserve and protect these important spaces, it also
helps contribute to our local economies through tourism and hospitality
revenues,” said Somerville.