The Nomination Process

The Icelandic Government’s proposal for the inscription of Vatnajökull National Park on the World Heritage List signed by Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources and Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Education, Science and Culture. The proposal was presented to the office of the World Heritage Convention in Paris in January 2018. Preparation of the nomination started in 2016 and the nomination document was prepared by Vatnajökull National Park as commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. A steering group was set up by the ministries to oversee and manage the nomination process.

On the 5th of July 2019 Vatnajökull National Park was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The decision, which was taken at a meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan confirmed that the natural environment of the Park and the Nature Reserve at Lónsöræfi have a unique value to humankind.

 

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Education, Science and Culture:

“This is an important milestone that will without a doubt strengthen the area and its reputation. It is our responsibility to protect our spectacular nature, not only for us who live here but for the whole world and future generations. I celebrate this historic decision and thank all those who have worked hard to promote this important cause.”

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources:

“The natural environment of the area that will now be added to the World Heritage List is magnificent – with incredible lava formations, black sands, rare oases, unique wilderness, remnants of catastrophic floods and glaciers that store an incredible history and at the same time reflect the current climate crisis. It is highly unusual that such a large part of a country is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This really is a joyous day.”

 

 An ongoing commitment

Inscribing a site on the World Heritage List is not the end of the story. Site managers and local authorities continuously work towards managing, monitoring and preserving the World Heritage properties. States Parties have an obligation to regularly prepare reports about the state of conservation and the various protection measures put in place at their sites. These reports allow the World Heritage Committee to assess the conditions at the sites and, eventually, to decide on the necessity of adopting specific measures to resolve recurrent problems. One of such measures could be including the inscription of a property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Periodic Reporting process provides an assessment of the application of the World Heritage Convention by the States Parties. It also provides updated information about the sites to record possible changes in the state of conservation of sites. The Periodic Reports – submitted by the States Parties themselves – are prepared on a regional basis and are examined by the World Heritage Committee on a pre-established schedule based on a six-year cycle. The results are included in the report of the World Heritage Committee to the General Conference of UNESCO.

 

Management and protection requirements

The government agency Vatnajökull National Park (Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður) is the primary state agency responsible for implementing the park legislation, and is an effective organization, supported at all levels by the Icelandic government, local municipalities and businesses. There is mature governance in place together with experienced staff responsible for management employed on a long-term basis, including a strong complement of permanent and temporary staff.

Recommends the State Party address the following, to maintain and strengthen the protection and management of the property:

  1. Complete, in a timely manner, the current revision of the management plan for Vatnajökull National Park, ensuring it integrates fully all areas included in the property,
  2. Seek to complete integration of the Herðubreiðarlindir and Lónsöræfi Nature Reserves into Vatnajökull National Park in order to facilitate cohesive management of the whole property,
  3. Make available additional staff resources, including both field staff and administrative support, to ensure the effective protection and management of the property, in view of the recent areas that were added to Vatnajökull National Park, and the recorded rapid recent increase in visitation to the property,
  4. Put in place adequate visitor facilities in the heavily visited areas around the Jökulsárlón Lagoon in the south of the property, and also at the Dettifoss Waterfall to the north of the property,
  5. Adopt and implement effective certification for commercial operators and guides operating in the property, and
  6. Take additional measures to discourage illegal off-road driving by visitors, and to rehabilitate any areas affected adversely by these and other visitor uses.