UNESCO-HIST at the 18th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFC


As UNESCO-HIST begins to increase its activities that have an international profile, it is making an effort to be present at selected events organized by UN organizations outside of UNESCO, HIST’s principal link to the entire range of the UN Family of organizations, institutions and conventions. Professor Natarajan Ishwaran represented UNESCO-HIST during the first week (25 November – 1 December 2012) of the 18th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) hosted by Qatar in Doha. Also present at COP 18 was a team of 20-25 representatives from a number of UNESCO Sectors as well as Professional and Support Staff from the UNESCO Office in Doha, Qatar (see photo of Director of the UNESCO Office in Doha, Qatar speaking at one of the many events in which UNESCO was represented).

Prof. Ishwaran represented UNESCO and HIST at a side event on “Integrated Spatial Data for Climate Adaptation Planning” organized by the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) on 29 November 2012 from 1315 to 1445. Ishwaran outlined the emerging research agenda in HIST for using World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves as experimental areas for climate change adaptation planning. The event also included speakers representing UNFPA, WFP (World Food Program), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), UNU (United Nations University), WMO (World Meterological Organization), World Bank, ITU (International Telecommunications Union), UN-HABITAT and UNDP (United Nations Development Program). The event was acknowledged and recognized by all organizations present as an opportunity to increase joint activities and collaboration (see Photo showing panelists with Ishwaran seated second from the left; please also see the UNFPA website - - to learn more on the extent to which participatory geospatial information technologies are finding use in population, migration and related activities).

The UNESCO Director General’s Climate Change Initiative had called upon the greater use of World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves as global observatories for climate change. UNESCO-HIST has a major role to play in exploring how this could be done and also in testing out the use of geospatial data for climate change adaptation planning in large land and seascapes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes a distinction between mitigation and adaptation policies to counter consequences of climate change: mitigation policies strive to reduce green-house-gas (GHG) emissions and enhance carbon sinks in the near term; whereas adaptation policies target how the mix of natural and human systems could cope with changed conditions that will inevitably result from climate change. UNESCO World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves could be testing grounds for understanding past changes that have occurred and visualizing future scenarios for mixed human and natural systems in a world that has been altered by climate change.

Developing World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves to be global observatories for simultaneous changes occurring in natural and human systems and their adaptation to new environmental conditions poses several conceptual and methodological challenges; HIST will increasingly address those challenges in cooperation with international and Chinese partners in a small number of these UNESCO designated places throughout the world.

Another advantage of being present at events such as COP 18 of UNFCCC held in Doha, Qatar, is the opportunity for networking with potential new public and private sector partners. Several such contacts were made during Prof. Ishwaran’s presence during the week of 25 November – 1 December 2012 through his presence and contributions to discussions in many other side events; the development of new partnerships with some of them will be explored during 2013.