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World Heritage Convention Act, 1999 (Act No. 49 of 1999)

Chapter I : Definitions, Objectives, Principles and Implementation

4. Fundamental principles


(1) For purposes of this Act, the fundamental principles listed in the following paragraphs are recognised by the State and apply throughout the Republic to the actions of all organs of State and Authorities in relation to World Heritage Sites, subject to applicable law, including, without limitation, the National Environmental Management Act, 1998, and the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999 (Act No. 29 of 1999), but in the event of any conflict between the principles of this Act and the said Acts, the provisions of the said Acts prevail:
(a) cultural and natural heritage management must be sensitive to the people and their needs and must equitably serve their physical, psychological, developmental, cultural and social interests;
(b) development must be socially, culturally, environmentally and economically sustainable;
(c) equitable access to World Heritage Sites must be pursued and special measures must be taken to ensure access thereto by historically disadvantaged persons;
(d) the participation of all interested and affected parties in the governance of cultural and natural heritage must be promoted;
(e) all people must have the opportunity to develop the understanding, skills and capacity necessary for achieving equitable and effective participation;
(f) participation by vulnerable and historically disadvantaged persons must be ensured;
(g) decisions must take into account the interests, needs and values of all interested and affected parties;
(h) community well-being and empowerment must be promoted through cultural and natural heritage education, the raising of cultural and natural heritage awareness, the sharing of knowledge and experience and other appropriate means;
(i) the social, economic, cultural and natural heritage consequences of activities, including disadvantages and benefits, must be considered;
(j) decisions must be taken in an open and transparent manner, and access to information must be provided in accordance with applicable law;
(k) there must be intergovernmental co-ordination and harmonisation of policies, legislation and actions relating to the cultural and natural heritage;
(l) actual or potential conflicts of interest between—
(i) organs of state;
(ii) an organ of state and an Authority; or
(iii) Authorities,

should be resolved through appropriate conflict resolution procedures and the principles of co-operative government in accordance with the Constitution;

(m) policy, administrative practice and legislation and the interpretation of existing legislation relating to the cultural and natural heritage must promote the integration of these resources in provincial, urban and rural planning and social and economic development;
(n) global and international responsibilities relating to the cultural and natural  heritage must be discharged in the national interest;
(o) the cultural and natural heritage is held in public trust for the people, the beneficial use of cultural and environmental resources must serve the public interest and the cultural and natural heritage must be protected as the common heritage of the people; and
(p) sensitive, vulnerable, highly dynamic or stressed ecosystems, such as coastal shores, dolomitic land and ridges, estuaries, wetlands, and similar systems require specific attention in management and planning procedures, especially where they are subject to significant human resource usage and development pressure.


(2) For the purposes of this Act, sustainable development of World Heritage Sites includes that—
(a) the unnatural disturbance of ecosystems and loss of biological diversity are avoided, or, where they cannot be avoided, are mitigated;
(b) pollution and degradation of the environment are avoided, or, where they cannot be avoided, are mitigated;
(c) the unnatural disturbance of landscapes and sites that constitute the cultural and natural heritage of the Republic is avoided, or, where it cannot be avoided, is mitigated, and that the cultural and natural heritage of the Republic must be enhanced;
(d) waste is avoided, or, where it cannot be avoided, minimised and re-used or recycled where possible and otherwise disposed of in a responsible manner;
(e) the use and exploitation of non-renewable natural resources is responsible and equitable, and takes into account the consequences of the depletion of the resource;
(f) the development, use and exploitation of renewable resources and the ecosystems of which they are part do not exceed the level beyond which their integrity is jeopardised;
(g) a risk-averse and cautious approach is applied, which takes into account the limits of current knowledge about the consequences of decisions and actions;
(h) negative impacts on the environment and on the environmental rights of the people must be anticipated and prevented, and where they cannot be prevented, must be mitigated;
(i) cultural and natural heritage may promote reconciliation, understanding and respect, and contribute to the development of a unifying South African identity; and
(j) cultural and natural heritage management must guard against the use of this heritage for purposes of threatening a culture based on equality and freedom or for party-political gain.