Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains inscribed to UNESCO’s Prestigious World Heritage List
July 3, 2015 is a Historic day for Jamaica and Jamaican people as our renowned Blue and John Crow Mountains was inscribed to UNESCO’s Prestigious World Heritage List. This is Jamaica’s first world heritage site.
Today the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee during its 39th session taking place in Bonn, Germany announced the inscription of the Blue and John Crow Mountains to the World Heritage List. The inscription represents the first World Heritage site for Jamaica and the first mixed (cultural and natural) site for the Caribbean sub-region. It is one of only 32 mixed sites.
Jamaica now joins the list of iconic sites such as the Great Wall of China, The Pyramids of Giza Egypt , The Taj Mahal of India and Acropolis of Athens, Great Barrier Reef Australia, as well as the Pitons in St. Lucia to name a few.
World Heritage status is given to natural and cultural sites across the globe that are considered to be of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), meaning the sites possess cultural and natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and are of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. Elements of authenticity and integrity associated with sites must also be demonstrated in the nomination process.
Addressing the World Heritage Committee following the unanimous decision by the 21 member committee, Minister of Youth and Culture, the Hon. Lisa Hanna, expressed gratitude to the World Heritage Committee for recognizing the extraordinary natural and cultural values of the Blue and John Crow Mountains. According to Minister Hanna, “This has been quite a journey for us as a country. The experience has taught us many things, and among them, we have learnt to appreciate our distinctive natural and cultural heritage even more. You see Madam Chairman There is a natural mystic that belies who we are as a county and as a people. A small nation with unabashed resolve and courage giving to the world the King of Reggae Music Bob Marley and the fastest Man and woman on land; Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Frazer Pryce. Our history, in particular, the struggles and defiance of our Maroon People helped to mould us into being distinctly Jamaican. To this end, we want the world to not only drink our Blue Mountain Coffee but also see the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Blue and John Crow Mountains, a site that the world can embrace as its own, exhibiting the natural and cultural values that will give an understanding of our "Jamaicaness."
The Committee members lauded Jamaica for the submission of the Blue and John Crow Mountains, which they cited as being an excellent example as a mixed site. Members noted that the site is a further example on how different UNESCO conventions can exist together, recognizing that the intangible heritage of the Moore Town Maroons, which is one of the maroon communities in the Blue and John Crow Mountains, was inscribed on the Intangible World Heritage List in 2009.
Also addressing the World Heritage Committee was Colonel of the Moore Town Maroons, Wallace Sterling who dedicated the prestigious listing to the maroons of Jamaica, “We know our ancestors are looking down on this moment, very proud that this universal prestige is being given to us, in part because they were selfless, committed, strong, cunning and resourceful persons who found ingenious ways to dismantle a system that blighted peoples of the region. Their efforts to put an end to one of the darkest periods of our history are what we acknowledge and celebrate as Maroons today. Importantly, we hail the legacy passed on to us by our ancestors - they have helped to shape our identity of self, and community”.
The Ministry of Youth and Culture and its agencies worked rigorously since 2013 by lobbying for a prestigious space as one of 21 countries to sit on the World Heritage Committee. Jamaica’s recognition at the global heritage table will be significantly elevated as the country’s cultural and natural heritage can now be measured according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) managed by the Word Economic Forum. The TTCI has as one of its pillars of measurement the number of World Heritage sites in a country.
World Heritage status opens up new realms for Jamaica in areas of tourism, research, and the promotion of local based initiatives through the promotion of these areas.
There are currently 1007 sites on the World Heritage List. Some 18 sites have been recommended for inscription to the List and are being deliberated during the 39th session of the WHC, June 28- July 8.