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Cultural heritage encompasses properties and sites of archaeological, historical, cultural, artistic and religious significance as well as unique environmental features and cultural knowledge, innovations and practices of communities embodying traditional lifestyles, which are protected for current and future generations. Consistent with the requirements of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, a client/investee is required to avoid significant damage to cultural heritage due to their business activities.

Impacts on cultural heritage typical involve the following:

  • Chance finds. During the construction of a client’s/investee’s facility(s), there may be physical impacts on previously unknown or undocumented resources that were fully or partially buried prior to the start of construction.
  • Community input. Where a project may affect cultural heritage, the client/investee will consult with affected communities who use, or have used, the cultural heritage for longstanding cultural purposes to identify cultural heritage of importance. A client/investee should incorporate the views of the affected communities on cultural heritage into the decision-making process.
  • Removal of cultural heritage. Most cultural heritage is best protected by preserving it in its place, since removal is likely to result in irreparable damage or destruction of the cultural heritage. Cultural heritage should only be removed if the client/investee can demonstrate that the overall benefits of operations at a particular site outweigh the anticipated loss of cultural heritage.
  • Legally protected cultural heritage areas. When a client’s/investee’s proposed operations are located within a legally protected area or a legally defined buffer zone, the client/investee is required to take additional measures to promote and enhance the conservation of the area.
  • Use of cultural heritage. If a client/investee makes commercial use of a community’s cultural heritage, such as embodiment of traditional lifestyles, the client/investee is required to enter into a good faith negotiation with the affected local communities and to provide fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the commercialization of their cultural heritage.

If a client’s/investee’s operations are initiated and conducted without consideration for cultural heritage, there are significant legal and reputational risks. A systematic approach to incorporating concern for cultural heritage issues throughout a client’s/investee’s operations, including additional investments in the enhancement of cultural heritage, can bring significant reputational advantage to a client/investee at both the local and international level.

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