What does it mean to be a World Heritage Site?
The Joggins Fossil Cliffs is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but what does that actually mean?
UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 1972 it adopted the World Heritage Convention. This convention is significant because, according to the World Heritage website (http://whc.unesco.org/en/convention/), “... it links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be cultural, natural, or a mixture of both. Every single site has, in UNESCO-speak, a unique statement of “Outstanding Universal Value” – this means that each site is deemed important to everyone, everywhere forever. For the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, this is the single best place in the world to view the late carboniferous time period over 300 million years ago.
There are 1,052 sites on the UNESCO list and that number grows every year. It is no small task, however, to become a World Heritage Site. For Joggins, the journey took over 10 years and many, many dedicated people who formed various committees to get the job completed.
Ultimately, it is UNESCO that decides whether sites should be added to the list, but there are many other committees and groups (such as the International Union of the Conservation of Nature) that give recommendations. Once on the list, it is extremely unusual for UNESCO to directly support sites with funding. Rather, it is expected that there is legislation and a reasonable management plan in place to preserve the site and provide its own funding.
We at the Joggins Fossil Institute (JFI) work closely with the Province of Nova Scotia and the Municipality of the County of Cumberland to manage the site and they provide some operational funding (50 per cent and five per cent, respectively). The JFI needs to earn the remainder of its budget through tours, gift shop and café sales, and donations. Remember, we are a not-for-profit, charitable organization so please consider supporting us through a donation or a visit this summer.