#1 for 40 years - Happy World Heritage Birthday!

Galapagos is marking it's 40th anniversary as a World Heritage site.  On the 8th of September 1978, the intergovernmental World Heritage Committee met in Washington D.C. and approved the inscription of the Galapagos Islands onto the World Heritage list.   As it was the first dossier to be studied and considered, it was given the prestigious "#1".  In  contrast, the most recent World Heritage site to be inscribed onto the list (Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in South Africa, July of this year) was numbered #1,575.

The World Heritage Convention was designed as an international instrument to encourage countries to take note of their cultural and natural heritage.  Countries were further encouraged to invest in conserving their heritage for current and future generations, and to identify and propose, for international recognition, those cultural and natural heritage sites they might consider to be of global significance.   

Sites proposed for recognition would be studied by arm's length technical bodies. These technical bodies would share their recommendations as to the validity of the proposals to the World Heritage Committee, which, in turn, would inscribe these sites onto the World Heritage list if it agreed.

It is not surprising that Galapagos was the first ever site to be inscribed.  Along with perhaps 3 or 4 other places on earth, it sits at the top of the pyramid with regard to places were we can go to observe wildlife so easily and feel completely awed by the spectacle. 

It was no coincidence either that the first meeting of the World Heritage Committee took place in Washington D.C.  The USA had taken a leadership role in the creation of the World Heritage Convention, holding a conference on the matter in the actual White House, in 1965.  In the following years, it invested a good deal of effort to bring the countries of the world together to develop this international instrument.  It wasn't until 1976 that it was formally adopted.  

The result has been successful beyond the expectations of the early proponents.  The World Heritage Convention is arguably one of the best news stories coming out of the United Nations, and likely one of the most widely recognized United Nations conventions.  

Happy World Heritage inscription day Galapagos!