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Shiretoko National Park, Japan

Source: Book, World Heritage Sites and Indigenous Peoples Rights

The Ainu indigenous peoples have faced a long history of marginalization by their government. In the Japanese government’s proposal of the site to the World Heritage Committee in 2004, the Ainu were completely ignored. They attempted to legitimize this omittance by emphasizing the lack of Ainu inhabitants of the site; yet this overlooks the fundamental importance of the Ainu’s close cultural and historical relationship with the territory. As such, the Ainu were barely engaged in the nomination process despite their continual efforts, and while there has been some progress at the national level, the World Heritage Committee must monitor and evaluate the situation of the Ainu at the Shiretoko site. There are hopes to enforce this, as well as pressure the Government to recognize and respect rights of indigenous peoples in the area.