UNESCO, the United Nations watchdog over so-called World Heritage sites, publicly separated itself from the world-wide campaign to name a new Seven Wonders of the World.
Chichen Itza’s El Castillo is one of 20 sites in the world competing to become one of the new Seven Wonders off the World. The previous Seven Wonders, from a list generated in Greece more than 2,000 years ago, no longer exist, save for the pyramids at Giza, Egypt.
UNESCO–the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization–put a notice on its Web site disavowing any connection with the New7Wonders Internet vote to pick a new Seven Wonders of the World. “UNESCO wishes to reaffirm that there is no link whatsoever between UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage programme, which aims to protect world heritage, and the current campaign concerning ‘The New 7 Wonders of the World,'” UNESCO’s statement begins.
There is a touch of sour grapes in UNESCO’s statement, or better, a snobbish derision. UNESCO explains that its job is to identify and encourage preservation of sites of patrimony in the world. Not so the New7Wonders campaign. “Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough,” it writes. Enough for what? The New7Wonders campaign has a very clear mandate–to find seven places on earth and put them on a list, nothing more, nothing less. UNESCO, by wasting its breath slighting what is the equivalent of a beauty pagaent for world monuments makes them appear petty and worse, may invite scrutiny that they will not survive.
While not diminishing the good works UNESCO performs, it is far from a objective organization and dispassionate participant in world scientific and cultural affairs. UNESCO is an arm of a very political organization, and as such, is subject to the winds of politics. Its statement, reproduced below, drips with political posturing.
UNESCO fails to acknowledge that the public loves bread and circuses. And whether UNESCO likes it or not, the designation of being named a New Wonder of the World by an Internet vote has a good chance of sticking in the public imagination for centuries, while its own legacy will fade within a few generations.
UNESCO’s complete statement is as follows:
In order to avoid any damaging confusion, UNESCO wishes to reaffirm that there is no link whatsoever between UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage programme, which aims to protect world heritage, and the current campaign concerning â€œThe New 7 Wonders of the Worldâ€.
This campaign was launched in 2000 as a private initiative by Bernard Weber, the idea being to encourage citizens around the world to select seven new wonders of the world by popular vote.
Although UNESCO was invited to support this project on several occasions, the Organizaton decided not to collaborate with Mr. Weber.
UNESCOâ€™s objective and mandate is to assist countries in identifying, protecting and preserving World Heritage. Acknowledging the sentimental or emblematic value of sites and inscribing them on a new list is not enough. Scientific criteria must be defined, the quality of candidates evaluated, and legislative and management frameworks set up. The relevant authorities must also demonstrate commitment to these frameworks as well as to permanently monitoring the state of conservation of sites. The task is one of technical conservation and political persuasion. There is also a clear educational role with respect to the sitesâ€™ inherent value, the threats they face and what must be done to prevent their loss.
There is no comparison between Mr Weberâ€™s mediatised campaign and the scientific and educational work resulting from the inscription of sites on UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage List. The list of the â€œ7 New Wonders of the Worldâ€ will be the result of a private undertaking, reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the internet and not the entire world. This initiative cannot, in any significant and sustainable manner, contribute to the preservation of sites elected by this public.