Losing UNESCO Vote Reverberates in Ohio, Jeopardizing International Recognition and Boost in Tourism

(Columbus,OH) — The United States lost its vote on the United Nations Educational,Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which met in Paris in early November. Four thousand miles closer to home, Ohioans are concerned about the potential impact on Ohio’s ancient sites that are being considered for inscription on the World Heritage List, a program administered by UNESCO. 

The U.S. lost its vote on UNESCO on November 8 as a result of not paying its dues for two consecutive years. In October 2011, the U.S. stopped paying its annual dues because of UNESCO’s decision to admit Palestine as a full-member of the organization. The U.S. Congress in the early 1990s mandated that the dues cutoff happen automatically if any United Nations agency accepted Palestine as a member.

The Newark Earthworks in Licking County, the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Ross County and the Fort Ancient Earthworks in Warren County are part of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination, which is on the United States Department of the Interior’s Tentative List of sites to be considered for UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Inscription on the World Heritage List is the highest international honor possible for a cultural or natural site because of its outstanding universal value.

“Ohio is home to spectacular ancient Native American mounds, built some 2,000 years ago using sophisticated engineering and mathematical skills that amaze people even today,” said Burt Logan, executive director of the Ohio History Connection. “Experts frequently reference these sites as internationally significant, both historically and culturally. Their addition to the World Heritage List would put Ohio on the map for international travelers and boost Ohio’s economy.”

The United States’ status within UNESCO creates uncertainty for the World Heritage nominations, according to Logan. There are nearly 1,000 World heritage sites around the world, but only 21 sites are located in the U.S. – none are in Ohio.Some of the more notable examples of World Heritage sites include the pyramids in Egypt, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China and the Statue of Liberty.

The World Heritage designation would have a significant impact on Ohio tourism, job creation and tax revenues, according to an economic impact study completed by Bax Starr Consulting Group of Chicago. Case studies have found that tourism can increase anywhere from double to 10-fold, generating increased local spending in the economy. Visitation to the Newark Earthworks, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park and the Fort Ancient Earthworks – collectively known as the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks – would draw heavily from cultural/heritage tourists, a niche market that spends about 50 percent more than the average traveler.

 Serpent Mound in Adams County and the Dayton Aviation Sites in Montgomery County are also on UNESCO’s Tentative List, and are to receive future consideration by UNESCO, Logan explained. “There is the very real possibility that Ohio could go from having zero World Heritage sites to having perhaps the most of any state,” Logan added.

 “The Ohio History Connection does not take a position on which countries are UNESCO members,” Logan explained. “We are urging members of Congress to find a solution to restore the U.S. vote on UNESCO so we can all be confident that the World Heritage Committee continues to accept and review Ohio’s nominations.”


About the Ohio History ConnectionFounded in 1885, the non-profit Ohio History Connection (ohiohistory.org) provides a wide array of statewide services and programs related to collecting, preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology and natural history through its 58 sites and museums across Ohio, including its flagship museum, the Ohio History Center in Columbus. For information regarding OHS, contact Shannon Thomas, Communications Specialist, Ohio History Connection: 614.297.2317, [email protected].

Posted March 20, 2015
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