Indigenous land rights and World Heritage sites : why are some indigenous peoples treated better than others by UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee?

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Thorne, Jordan
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This thesis explores the relationship between UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Indigenous land rights, focusing on the varying levels of protection that UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee afford to Indigenous Peoples. Through an analysis of case studies from different regions, this study seeks to identify patterns in the ways UNESCO and the Committee address Indigenous rights, considering procedures of the World Heritage system and their interactions with national interests. Particular attention is paid to the concepts of “Outstanding Universal Value”, authenticity, uniqueness, and wilderness, and the continuing role of colonialism in conservation. This thesis highlights the increasing politicisation of decision making within the World Heritage Committee and the changing dynamics between the Committee, UNESCO, and its advisory bodies, looking at how this not only threatens Indigenous rights but also limits the effectiveness of the World Heritage Convention. Ultimately, this thesis argues that Indigenous Peoples receive greater or lesser protection due to compatibility with a “productive” use of land, rather than any inherent merits of their cultures. The study highlights the need for more Indigenous involvement in heritage conservation, and how UNESCO and the Committee could use their influence to protect Indigenous land rights more effectively.
Second semester University: University of Helsinki. Global Campus awarded thesis 2022/2023
indigenous peoples, common heritage of humanity, UNESCO, right to property, land tenure, indigenous rights, tourism, colonialism