Liverpool Loses UNESCO World Heritage Site Status in Supranational Overreach

Happy Tuesday!

Today, I write about supranational overreach and the absurdity of the World Heritage title.

She Looks Great at Night! 

Have a care for Liverpool, everyone.

Often derided as a place inhabited only by thieving welfare queens, Liverpool has a rough reputation inside the United Kingdom.

Outside the United Kingdom, it’s mostly known as the home of the Beatles.  If you go back a little bit further, it’s where most of the British ex-pats would depart on their boats to America.

Recently Liverpool has been a European Capital of Culture, however ridiculous that may sound. 

Liverpool Bramley Dock, where all the passengers departed for the New World, was labeled a World Heritage Site.

According to Smithsonian Magazine:

UNESCO added the city to its list in 2004 in recognition of its role in world trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Liverpool was one of the United Kingdom’s most important ports at a time when the British Empire was becoming a dominant force around the world. The listing also reflected innovative technology and building techniques of the city’s maritime industry. People there developed new types of docks, new warehouse construction techniques, and industrial canals that served as models for other port cities. 

The benefits of being labeled a World Heritage Site seem self-evident.

An increase in tourism, a higher profile, national pride, and civic pride are all pretty qualifiable, if not quantifiable.

But the costs of World Heritage Sites are starting to get looked at a little bit more closely.

Oman, Germany, and now Liverpool have lost their World Heritage status.

UNESCO has stripped the English city of Liverpool of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, citing “the irreversible loss of attributes conveying the outstanding universal value of the property” due to new development.

Benefits and Costs

It’s becoming increasingly tricky for places that were once small and now have been inundated by tourists to maintain World Heritage status.

Places like George Town in Penang, Malaysia, or Hoi An in Vietnam, are lovely to visit.

Of course, with the increase in air travel over the past two decades, many people have flocked to these places.

And it follows, of course, that it’s such a big money winner, the governments have put up more hotels.  Let’s make the infrastructure better.  Let’s cater to the people paying us, the tourists.

That seems all together normal to me.

Of course, UNESCO has jumped in and said in effect, “Well, listen, if you’re going to put up all this modern stuff, we’re going to yank your status.”

It goes against everything that these places have fought for, which is name brand recognition.

I’ll happily admit a lot of the structures going up at Liverpool’s docks are ugly.

It’s just it does make the place look a little bit overdone, in my opinion.

You may not know that both Liverpool and Everton are from Liverpool. Everton was the older club, and Liverpool FC split out from them. But Everton has since been playing second fiddle to the six-time European Cup winners.

Just the Way You Are

Well, Everton has just agreed to build a brand new stadium right on the dock. For those of you in the states, this is akin to when the Yankees were going to make the new Yankee Stadium on the west side of Manhattan, where the Hudson Yards development is.

Of course, that got shelved, and they just moved the stadium a block in the Bronx for a reason that I still can’t fathom.

Anyway, the stadium looks fabulous (on paper).

It’s right on the water.

The stadium itself, in my opinion, would become a cultural icon, but UNESCO wasn’t having any of it.

So UNESCO has just yanked Liverpool’s World Heritage status.

I’ve been to Liverpool twice. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it.

But if we go back to Kahneman and Tversky and their Prospect Theory, you may remember that losing has three times more impact than winning. We feel three times as bad when we fail as we feel good when we win.

This is a big blow for Liverpool. It’s not nice getting our gongs and baubles (as the English would say) taken away from us.

People who are as neurotic as I especially feel it.

William Shakespeare famously said, “’ Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Neurotic people tend to disagree with that sentiment.

Side note: if you carry a torch for somebody, I strongly suggest you go to LinkedIn and see your “lost love” 10 to 20 years later. Some of the most nubile, supple, fresh-faced girls of my youth have turned into absolute horror shows.

The Real Costs

After all this, it’s only natural to look at the costs of being a World Heritage Site.

It’s interesting to note how expensive it is to keep World Heritage status in this UK report. 

It’s not a fee necessarily.

It’s all the ongoing costs to make sure that you don’t piss off UNESCO.

The benefits of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site are partnership, additional funding, conservation, regeneration, tourism, civic pride, social capital, and learning and education.

Although very difficult to quantify, I think they’re good benefits.

But this UK report says the overall cost associated with World Heritage status is difficult to define. “This is largely due to the fact, the sites are so different in terms of ownership, scale, nature, and location,” it reads.

The bidding costs associated with becoming a World Heritage Site are incurred in four main areas, excluding the management plan.

A World Heritage Site coordinator estimated at between £36,000 and £42,000 per year (not dollars) on average over four to eight years, which comes out to £185,000 to £216,000.

The partner and consultation time is estimated at £41,000 for partners over the same 4.8 years, and between £15,000 and £100,000 for public consultation.

The production costs in a nomination are between £15,000 and £50,000. The cost of supporting studies is estimated between £20,000 and £80,000 per study.

Pay For Status, Get the Oversight

Since we’re used to dealing with trillions, this is peanuts. Of course, you’d pay for this.

But what’s happening here is the UN is holding this over with sites to keep it as old as it always has been.

And it doesn’t leave any room for urban renewal, which again goes against everything these sites may strive for.

It reminds me of those people who go to Cuba and pray that it doesn’t get any better because they want to keep it an open-air museum to communism.

I’ve never heard anything more stupid in my whole life, and I’ve written about that before.

So I think what needs to happen is that UNESCO has to make allowances for the future and allow these sites to grow with the added tourism that they surely will benefit from.

After all, it’s a money game, and that’s the whole point of being a World Heritage Site, to begin with.

Have a great Tuesday!

All the best,

Sean

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