About the Author: Dr. Esther Brimmer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.Aloha from Hawaii, where I am attending the inscription ceremony today for Papahānaumokuākea -- that's Papa-HA-now-mo-koo-AH-kay-ah -- which was earlier this year added to the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List.
The United States nominated Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as a World Heritage site in 2009. The remote chain of atolls and surrounding waters is the first U.S. site to be added to the World Heritage List in 15 years and joins 20 other U.S. sites including the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty on the list.
Papahānaumokuākea is a national and international treasure. It is the first American site designated on the World Heritage List for both its natural and cultural significance. Not only is it the United States' single largest conservation area, with its139,797 square miles home to over 7,000 marine species, a fourth of which are found only there, but also in native Hawaiian cosmology and tradition, Papahānaumokuākea is believed to lie within the place where life originates and to which it returns.
This inscription is important for the promotion and long-term preservation of this important Hawaiian site, and is an example of the direct benefits of multilateral engagement to the American people. Working with UNESCO and the 187 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention, the United States works to protect and preserve international treasures like Papahānaumokuākea.
The United States played a leading role in the creation of the World Heritage List in 1972. We initially proposed the idea, were the principal architects of its provisions, and we were the first nation to ratify the Convention. Today, the United States works with our international partners to ensure that the list is a real tool for concrete action in preserving threatened sites and protecting the natural resources and endangered species found within sites. In adding a site to the World Heritage List, the international community, including the United States, commits itself to its preservation and to find solutions for its protection for future generations.
It is also but one of many examples of the benefits to ordinary Americans of active and strong U.S. engagement in international organizations, like UNESCO. Today, in this beautiful setting, I am again reminded that working together, nations can better address our shared challenges, like preserving our collective humanity by protecting our universal wonders, so that the stunning beauty of sites like Papahānaumokuākea can be secured for generations to come.