IUCN has developed a standardized methodology for the Conservation Outlook Assessments of natural World Heritage sites. This enables the assessments to be repeatable, accurate and transparent. The methodology was developed together with an IUCN World Heritage Outlook technical advisory group, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre staff and World Heritage site managers, and draws on a wide range of existing methodologies for protected area assessments, including:
- IUCN WCPA's established methodologies and framework for Management Effectiveness of Protected Areas
- Lessons learned from the assessment frameworks developed for the Great Barrier Reef Outlook report (2009)
- The Enhancing Our Heritage Toolkit
- The Managing Natural World Heritage Manual
- and the World Heritage Periodic Reporting questionnaire
In 2011, pilot assessments were undertaken for the then five natural World Heritage sites in the Arab State to test the methodology validity. The results of the pilot assessments were published in the Tabe'a: Nature and World Heritage in the Arab States Report. Following on from the results of the pilot assessments, the methodology was finalised and used in the first round of Conservation Outlook Assessments for sites in 2014.
After Conservation Outlook Assessment updates every three years, the methodology is reviewed and further refined by IUCN and a World Heritage Outlook technical advisory group based on feedback during the assessment and consultation process, and best available methodologies on protected area assessments at the time of review. This adaptive approach enables the improvement of the IUCN World Heritage Outlook methodology over time, but in a way that ensures assessments are still repeatable and comparable between assessment rounds.
Each assessment update is based on the best-available information at the time, and new site visits are not involved. These assessments do not therefore replace existing site-based monitoring and evaluation systems of the World Heritage Convention.
Assessments are coordinated by the IUCN Secretariat working with independent experts who are familiar with the sites and supported by consultation. The 2017 Conservation Outlook Assessment process is structured around eight steps, each corresponding to a standardized assessment worksheet.
Designed to evaluate only sites inscribed on the World Heritage List for their natural Outstanding Universal Value (criteria vii, viii, ix and x), the methodology could be adapted to apply more widely to protected areas and areas of conservation importance.
The consultation process is indispensable to the IUCN World Heritage Outlook to ensure that site assessments are as accurate as possible and focused on the most pressing issues.
A range of knowledge-holders are informed and invited to take part in the consultation process. Typically, they include:
- IUCN Commission members, in particular those of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and Species Survival Commission (SSC)
- The IUCN Secretariat
- Stakeholders involved in the management of sites (including IUCN Member organizations, relevant Government authorities, site managers, NGOs, community groups, international agencies etc.)
Each site assessment undergoes multiple internal and external reviews before finalization. Draft assessments are internally reviewed to verify that they meet the required standards. They are then examined by expert reviewers, selected for their knowledge of a site. All assessments are then reviewed in each IUCN region. The regional review groups consist of the IUCN WCPA Regional Vice-Chair, representatives of the IUCN regional office and regional specialists for World Heritage. A final draft is prepared for each site assessment, incorporating all feedback received, and site managers are invited to provide comments. All completed assessments are approved by the IUCN World Heritage Panel.
Conservation Outlook Assessments will be reviewed every three years. However, if significant new information becomes available on a particular site, its assessment can be revised at any time.
If you have any information on a natural World Heritage site that you would like to share for the IUCN World Heritage Outlook, please contact us. You can submit your feedback by filling the online feedback form or via email at worldheritageoutlook [at] iucn [dot] org.