World Heritage Voluntary Agreement Signing
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Robert J. Donchez, Mayor of the City of Bethlehem and Chair of the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission; Curtis H. Barnette, Vice-Chair of Bethlehem World Heritage Commission; and Charlene Donchez Mowers, President of the Bethlehem World Heritage Commission and Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, are pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of the Interior has authorized the Historic Moravian Bethlehem National Historic Landmark District to participate in a planned multi-country nomination to the World Heritage List of historic ‘Moravian Church Settlements’ in Europe and North America.
With its intact core of original buildings on 14.7 acres in the heart of Bethlehem, this district preserves some of the most important structures and sites relating to the Moravians in the New World. Historic Moravian Bethlehem’s centuries-old architecture and town planning including 10 structures, several ruins and a cemetery are a reflection of a timeless community with ageless values of education, equality, industry, integrity and spirituality that have been part of this community since 1741.
Historic Moravian Bethlehem was added to the U.S. World Heritage Tentative List in 2017 as a potential “extension” to the 2015 inscription on the World Heritage List of the Moravian Church Settlement of Christiansfeld in Denmark. Bethlehem along with the German settlement of Hernnhut and with the proposed addition of Gracehill in Northern Ireland, UK, will develop a proposal to join Christiansfeld as a single World Heritage listing that represents the worldwide influence of the Moravian Church as manifest in a remarkable group of settlements. This would be the first multi-country cultural World Heritage nomination for the United States, whose current World Heritage sites include two cross-border natural sites with Canada.
The World Heritage List recognizes cultural and natural sites of universal importance. There are 1,154 sites in 167 countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention. Currently there are 24 World Heritage Sites in the United States.
The National Park Service is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention on behalf of the Department of the Interior and in cooperation with the Department of State. The National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs will provide guidance on the development of the nomination and coordinate with the other participating countries.
The date of the actual submission of a nomination will depend on when the detailed documentation package is completed. The Department of the Interior will consult with the Federal Interagency Panel for World Heritage on the completed document before making a decision to submit it to the World Heritage Committee.
The final decision on inclusion on the World Heritage list will be made by the World Heritage Committee, composed of representatives from 21 nations elected from the members of the World Heritage Convention, and advised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
On September 14 and 15, representatives from Historic Moravian Bethlehem and from the historic Moravian communities of Herrnhut, Gracehill and Christiansfeld met in Bethlehem to work on the nomination.
On September 15 at 10:00 am at Town Hall, there was an official meeting of this Transnational Working Group to sign a Voluntary Association Agreement.