Many of the world’s most famous places—those with unparalleled natural and cultural beauty, significance and/or biological diversity such as the Galápagos Islands, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Pyramids of Egypt— have been designated as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention.
These places are recognised globally for their outstanding universal value—“cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole”.
Currently, there are nearly 1,100 natural, cultural, and mixed (i.e. natural and cultural) World Heritage Sites across the globe. Natural World Heritage Sites, in particular, provide economic, social and environmental benefits. They provide vital resources such as food, fuel and water; perform environmental services such as stabilising soils, preventing floods, and capturing carbon; and contribute significantly to economies through jobs, tourism, recreation, and exports.
However, almost half of natural World Heritage Sites are threatened by harmful industrial activities such as exploring and extracting oil, gas and minerals; illegal logging; overfishing; unsustainable use of water; and large-scale infrastructure projects such as dams, pipelines, roads, and mega ports.
Furthermore, one of the ten targets under UN Sustainable Development Goal 11—i.e. “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”—is to “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage”.
As risk managers, insurers and investors, the insurance industry can play a key role in protecting the priceless and irreplaceable assets that make up our world heritage.
The PSI, WWF and UNESCO worked together with the insurance industry to deliver the world’s first insurance industry statement of commitment to protect the outstanding universal value of World Heritage Sites. This initiative spans risk management, insurance and investment activities of the insurance industry, as well as education, awareness raising and stakeholder engagement.
The statement was launched at the 42nd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which was held from 24 June to 4 July 2018 in Manama, Bahrain. See the press release.
Furthermore, this initiative complements other major PSI initiatives—particularly the initiative to develop global guidance to manage environmental, social and governance risks in insurance underwriting and the Insurance Industry Development Goals for Cities launched by the PSI and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability at the ICLEI World Congress 2018 in Montréal in June 2018.
The insurance industry’s statement of commitment to protect World Heritage Sites
Signatories (country of domicile) include:
- Allianz (Germany)
- AGROASEMEX (Mexico)
- AXA (France)
- Caixa Seguradora (Brazil)
- Certified Sustainable Insurance Partners (United States)
- Earth Security Group (United Kingdom)
- ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (Germany)
- Insurance Council of New Zealand (New Zealand)
- Interamerican Hellenic Insurance Group (Greece)
- La Banque Postale (France)
- Liberty Seguros (Brazil)
- National Reinsurance Corporation of the Philippines (Philippines)
- Microinsurance Network (Luxembourg)
- Mongeral Aegon (Brazil)
- Peak Re (China)
- Philippines Insurers & Reinsurers Association (Philippines)
- Porto Seguro (Brazil)
- RepRisk (Switzerland)
- Risk Management Solutions (United States)
- SCOR (France)
- Seguradora Líder DPVAT (Brazil)
- Sompo Japan Insurance Inc. (Japan)
- Swiss Re (Switzerland)
- Tokio Marine Seguradora (Brazil)
How to become a signatory to the statement of commitment
There are two signatory categories:
- Signatory companies: Insurance and reinsurance companies, intermediaries (e.g. agents and brokers), and other companies and organisations that provide insurance and reinsurance products or services
- Supporting institutions: Insurance and reinsurance associations, institutes and initiatives; insurance regulatory and supervisory authorities; civil society organisations; academic institutions; and other institutions that work with the insurance industry
To become a signatory to the Statement—either as a signatory company or as a supporting institution—simply e-mail the project team at email@example.com and confirm that your organisation would like to sign the Statement.
Signatories will be recognised in various PSI, WWF and UNESCO communications and events.
The first guide for the insurance industry to protect UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The guide was launched on 15 October 2019 at the “UN Environment’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Regional Roundtable for Latin America and Caribbean in São Paulo, Brazil“, and developed as a result of the largest cooperation between the UN and the insurance industry, WWF and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre, and was supported by ECOFACT, a sustainability service provider.
To learn more about the guide, please watch our Webinar: PSI-WWF-UNESCO briefing on first guide for the global insurance industry to protect World Heritage Sites that is available online here: Webinar 1 and Webinar 2.
Reference Materials and Links
- UNESCO World Heritage Centre
- UNESCO World Heritage Convention
- UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
- UNESCO Operational guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention
- UNESCO World Heritage list
- UNESCO World Heritage and extractive industries
- UN Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- PSI initiative to developing global guidance on environmental, social and governance risks and in insurance underwriting
- The New Urban Agenda (UN, 2017)
- How banks can safeguard our world heritage (Ecofact and WWF, 2017)
- Protecting people through nature (Dalberg Global Development Advisors and WWF, 2016)
- Safeguarding outstanding natural value (Aviva Investors, Investec and WWF, 2015)
- The benefits of natural world heritage (IUCN, 2014)
- WWF World Heritage Site campaign
- Article: Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre welcomes Standard Chartered’s new policy to deny funding activities that damage World Heritage sites (June 2018)
- Article: Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre welcomes Barclays’ policy to prevent financing damaging activities at World Heritage sites (UNESCO, May 2018)
- Article: Some things you just can’t put a price on – like World Heritage sites (ICMM)
- Article: How banks can ensure their capital is being used in a sustainable way (International Banker, March 2018)
- Article: The role of banks in protecting World Heritage Sites (International Banker, Sept 2017)
- ICMM Position: ICMM calls for stronger legal protection of World Heritage sites
- UK’s Lord Turner interview on the role of banks in protecting world heritage sites (RI, June 2017)