IUCN World Heritage Field Evaluation in Ethiopia

Dr. Dan Tormey has been involved in the international geoconservation world for nearly fifteen years as a reviewer for the UNESCO World Heritage site evaluation process and a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Typically participating in the desktop reviews of a nominated site (over 50 to date), Dr. Tormey recently led a field mission for evaluating nominated World Heritage Site in Ethiopia. Melka Kunture awaited; an already regionally and globally significant archaeological site in East Africa, nestled in the highlands south of the country’s capital. At the cradle of civilization, Dr. Tormey notes how easily the depth of time is felt in this place. From Los Angeles, through Istanbul, to Addis Ababa—he arrived tasked with a determination of outstanding universal value, the guiding UNESCO requirement to securing World Heritage Site determination.
During the field evaluation stage of a World Heritage site nomination, a small team will visit the site in person. This aids in establishing the quality of the site, along with the feasibility of proposed management. Melka Kunture is composed of volcanic deposits with a plethora of evidence of stone tools developed by early hominids, making it a geoheritage site worth exploring! Across countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia, nomadic and pastoralist land-use are still highly prevalent, raising potential complications for the establishment of IUCN-backed conservation. How do we work with the existing community that is actively using nominated site space? And how may we protect the million plus year old stone tool technology found at the site? A value-added approach is the international solution to harmoniously addressing all existing elements. Facilitation is a major value that field teams provide, engaging and recording the local stakeholder thoughts and contributions to the management decisions at hand. Beyond meetings, there is also an inspection of the entire site with the state party to chart the integrity of the landscape.
Over coffee and injera, the fermented sponge bread central to Ethiopian cuisine, Dan jointly led the stakeholder meetings critical to preserved area management establishment. By engaging the government employees and guiding state party, Dr. Tormey’s meeting facilitation provided points of connection and clarification for the actors of the geoconservation world—it’s capacity building on an international scale. Before the Ethiopian field mission, Dr. Tormey represented UNESCO in the field mission for Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park—exploring the dynamic of fire and ice as they sought World Heritage protection. The review needed a completed field mission by the end of October, and Dr. Tormey & team finished with no time to spare on the 31st. One of the fastest evaluation turnarounds in IUCN reviewer history!

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