An insight into Saba's heritage properties for the purpose of World Heritage nomination

In 2011, the Saban government submitted the tentative list for nomination of the UNESCO World Heritage list. On this tentative list, the whole island of Saba was submitted as a mixed heritage site, with both natural and cultural heritage properties. After this submission, Saba has not followed up on this tentative list and the nomination process has come to a standstill.

Because of the many advantages of being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, it is worthwhile to examine what the current status of the application procedure is. The objective of this research is to
to gain insight into the cultural and natural heritage on Saba, and the application procedure of the

UNESCO World Heritage list, in order to give recommendations to the Saba Tourism Bureau on the application strategy to get Saba’s heritage on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

A qualitative design with eleven semi-structured interviews was used to obtain information from the main persons involved in Saba’s application for UNESCO World Heritage nomination. Two interviews took place in The Netherlands with experts in the field of cultural heritage and UNESCO procedures. The other nine interviews took place on Saba with local administrators and key figures in Saba’s cultural heritage. The interviews were recorded digitally and transcribed verbatim. A single-step coding procedure was used to analyze the interviews.

The results of the interviews and desk research demonstrate that the main challenge for the nomination on the UNESCO World Heritage list is to come to a clear defined approach in which all parties involved work together. Saba’s bid for World Heritage nomination has the potential to be solid if there would be a committee in place that would have the necessary recourses and support to take a step-wise approach through the nomination process.

In order to pursue UNESCO World Heritage nomination, the various aspects should be improved. First, the communication between all entities involved should be improved. Currently the Dutch committee involved in reviewing the applications for UNESCO World Heritage nomination is unaware of the status of Saba’s application as the communication from Saba has been very poor. Furthermore, the communication and cooperation between the various local organizations involved in Saba’s heritage properties is sub-par. There is no overarching committee to manage the various activities and efforts of these organizations. Second, all involved parties should be aware of the nomination procedures and requirements. If needed, the Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed could provide assistance in this process. Last, the local government has to start developing and implementing regulations regarding the protection of the heritage properties. As some of these regulations will affect Saba’s inhabitants, information needs to be provided and discussed to ensure an island-wide support for world heritage nomination. 

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