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World Heritage Site

A World Heritage Site is a place (such as a building,

city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, or
mountain) that is listed by the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Sites
can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The
program was founded with the Convention Concerning
the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural
Heritage,[1] which was adopted by the General
Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since
then, 191 states parties have ratified the Convention,
making it one of the most adhered to international instruments. Only Liechtenstein, Nauru,
Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, and Tuvalu are not Parties to the Convention.
As of July 2015, 1031 sites are listed: 802 cultural, 197 natural, and 32 mixed properties,
in 163 states parties.[2][3] According to the sites ranked by country, Italy is home to the
greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 51 sites, followed by China (48), Spain (44),
France (41), Germany (40), Mexico (33), and India (32). UNESCO references each World
Heritage Site with an identification number; however, new inscriptions often include
previous sites now listed as part of larger descriptions. Consequently, the identification
numbers exceed 1,200, even though there are fewer on the list.
While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the
site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to
preserve each site.

See also: World Heritage Committee
In 1954, the government of Egypt decided to build the new Aswan High Dam, whose
resulting future reservoir would eventually inundate a large stretch of the Nile valley
containing cultural treasures of ancient Egypt in Nubia. In 1959, the governments of Egypt
and Sudan requested UNESCO to assist their countries to protect and rescue the
endangered monuments and sites. In 1960, the Director-General of UNESCO launched an
appeal to the Member States for an International Campaign to Save the Monuments of
Nubia.[4] This appeal resulted in the excavation and recording of hundreds of sites, the
recovery of thousands of objects, as well as the salvage and relocation to higher ground

of a number of important temples, the most famous of which are the temple complexes of
Abu Simbel and Philae. The campaign, which ended in 1980, was considered a complete
and spectacular success. As tokens of its gratitude to countries which especially
contributed to the campaign's success, Egypt donated four temples: the Temple of
Dendur was moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Temple of
Debod was moved to the Parque del Oeste in Madrid, the Temple of Taffeh was moved to
the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in the Netherlands, and the Temple of Ellesyia to Museo
Egizio in Turin.[5]
The project cost US$80 million, about $40 million of which was collected from 50
countries. The project's success led to other safeguarding campaigns: saving Venice and
its lagoon in Italy, the ruins of Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan, and the Borobodur Temple
Compounds in Indonesia. UNESCO then initiated, with the International Council on
Monuments and Sites, a draft convention to protect the common cultural heritage of

Convention and background

The United States initiated the idea of cultural conservation with nature conservation. A
White House conference in 1965 called for a "World Heritage Trust" to preserve "the
world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of
the entire world citizenry". The International Union for Conservation of Nature developed
similar proposals in 1968, and they were presented in 1972 to the United Nations
conference on Human Environment in Stockholm. Under the World Heritage Committee,
signatory countries are required to produce and submit periodic data reporting providing
the World Heritage Committee with an overview of each participating nation's
implementation of the World Heritage Convention and a "snapshot" of current conditions
at World Heritage properties.
A single text was agreed on by all parties, and the "Convention Concerning the Protection
of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage" was adopted by the General Conference of
UNESCO on 16 November 1972.
The Convention came into force on 17 December 1975. As of June 2014, it has been
ratified by 191 states, including 187 UN member states plus the Cook Islands, the Holy
See, Niue, and the Palestinian territories.[6]

Nominating process
A country must first inventory its significant ethical and natural properties; the result is

called the Tentative List. A country may not nominate properties that have not been
included on the Tentative List. Next, it can place properties selected from this list into a
Nomination File.
The Nomination File is evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and
the World Conservation Union. These bodies then make their recommendations to the
World Heritage Committee. The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or
not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List and sometimes defers
the decision to request more information from the country which nominated the site.
There are ten selection criteria a site must meet at least one of them to be included on
the list.[7]

Selection criteria
Until the end of 2004, there were six criteria for cultural heritage and four criteria for
natural heritage. In 2005, this was modified so that there is only one set of ten criteria.
Nominated sites must be of "outstanding universal value" and meet at least one of the ten

Cultural criteria
I. "represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance"
II. "exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a
cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology,
monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design"
III. "to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a
civilization which is living or which has disappeared"
IV. "is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological
ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history"
V. "is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use
which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment
especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change"
VI. "is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with
beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance"

Natural criteria
VII. "contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and
aesthetic importance"

VIII. "is an outstanding example representing major

stages of Earth's history, including the record
of life, significant on-going geological
processes in the development of landforms, or
significant geomorphic or physiographic
IX. "is an outstanding example representing
significant on-going ecological and biological
processes in the evolution and development of
terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine
ecosystems, and communities of plants and
X. "contains the most important and significant
natural habitats for in-situ conservation of
biological diversity, including those containing
threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science
or conservation"

Legal status of designated sites

UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site provides prima facie evidence that such
culturally sensitive sites are legally protected pursuant to the Law of War, under the
Geneva Convention, its articles, protocols and customs, together with other treaties
including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of
Armed Conflict and international law.
Thus, the Geneva Convention treaty promulgates:
Without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural
Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954,' and of other relevant
international instruments, it is prohibited:[10]
(a) To commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of
art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples;
(b) To use such objects in support of the military effort;
(c) To make such objects the object of reprisals."


There are 981 World Heritage Sites located in 160

States Party. Of these, 759 are cultural, 193 are
natural and 29 are mixed properties. The World
Heritage Committee has divided the world into five
geographic zones which it calls regions: Africa, Arab
States, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North
America, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Russia and the Caucasus states are classified as
European, while Mexico is classified as belonging to the Latin America & Caribbean zone,
despite its location in North America. The UNESCO geographic zones also give greater
emphasis on administrative, rather than geographic associations. Hence, Gough Island,
located in the South Atlantic, is part of the Europe & North America region because the
government of the United Kingdom nominated the site.
The table below includes a breakdown of the sites according to these zones and their
* Because many sites belong to more than one country, duplicates exist when counting
them by country and within a region.

Territorial division
The following overview lists only countries with ten or more World Heritage Sites.

See also
List of conservation articles
Lists of World Heritage Sites
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists

External links
Media related to World Heritage Sites at Wikimedia Commons
UNESCO World Heritage List travel guide from Wikivoyage