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Culture ministry hosts world heritage and climate change symposium

Paul H. Williams, Hospitality Jamaica Writer

World Heritage Sites are so designated because of their special cultural and physical significance. They have outstanding universal value, and to such sites tourists go to embrace and learn about the cultures and geographies of the world. Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains are two of such sites.

However, the integrity, security and value of these sites seem to be under threat by world climate change. Mindful of this, Jamaica's Ministry of Culture, in conjunction with UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO and the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation is hosting a world heritage and climate change symposium at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in St Andrew from May 29-31.

In bringing greetings to the audience at the opening ceremony on Monday, Laleta Davis-Mattis, chairman of the Culture Advisory Committee, Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, said, inter alia, "It is self-evident that climate change poses a threat to the outstanding universal values of some World Heritage Site and therefore has implications for the implementations of the Convention, including nominations, periodic reporting and reactive monitoring. The submission of nominations, therefore, will also include the design of appropriate measures for monitoring the impacts of climate change and adapting to the adverse consequences".

The gathering was also addressed by two Jamaican government ministers, Olivia Grange and Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for land, environment, climate change and investment.

"Climate change strikes at the very foundation of our lives and livelihood, including our culture and heritage ... The tourism sector on which we largely depend is vulnerable to loss and damages to assets and attractions, as well as an increase in insurance cost," said Vaz.

In her presentation to delegates from eight Caribbean countries, Grange noted that small island developing states are particular vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on their economic welfare, and that is why they had gathered "to deliberate and come to a consensus on how to battle the vicious impacts of climate change on the integrity of our culture and heritage".

The three-day symposium, Grange said, "symbolises the urgency for our collective fight to protect our identity as a region, both with respect to preserving and safeguarding our tangible and intangible heritage".

In closing, Grange said, "The work at hand is great, but is not beyond us to tackle the issues and find solutions that will ensure the proactive protection of our heritage assets in the Caribbean." 

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