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World Heritage Emblem

The World Heritage emblem represents the interdependence of the world’s natural and cultural diversity. It is used to identify properties protected by the World Heritage Convention and inscribed on the official World Heritage List, and represents the universal values for which the Convention stands. While the central square symbolizes the results of human skill and inspiration, the circle celebrates the gifts of nature. The emblem is round, like the world, a symbol of global protection for the heritage of all humankind.

Designed by Belgian artist Michel Olyff, it was adopted as the official emblem of the World Heritage Convention in 1978. Its use is strictly regulated and determined by the World Heritage Committee, with guidelines for its use defined in Annex 3 of the Operational Guidelines. It is protected under the international World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) act. Any other use is forbidden without express written permission on the part of the World Heritage Committee. This section provides guidelines for using the emblem at World Heritage properties, principles for using the emblem in other circumstances (for authorities), authorization for its use, and quality control.

Guidelines & Authorization for Use

Countries (States Parties) who have signed the Convention should take all possible measures to prevent the use of the Emblem in their respective countries for any purpose not explicitly recognized by the World Heritage Committee. When appropriate, States Parties are encouraged to make full use of their national legislation, including Trademark laws.

The Emblem also has a fund-raising potential that can be used to enhance the marketing value of products with which it is associated. A balance is needed between the Emblem’s use to further the aims of the convention and optimize knowledge of the Convention worldwide and the need to prevent its abuse for inaccurate, inappropriate, and unauthorized commercial or other purposes.

Guidelines for using the Emblem at World Heritage Properties

Properties included in the World Heritage List should be marked with the emblem jointly with the UNESCO logo.

Once a property is included on the World Heritage List, the State Party should place a plaque, whenever possible, to commemorate this inscription. These plaques are designed to inform the public of the country concerned and foreign visitors that the site visited has a particular value which has been recognized by the international community. In other words, the site is exceptional, of interest not only to one nation but also to the whole world. However, these plaques have an additional function which is to inform the general public about the World Heritage Convention or at least about the World Heritage concept and the World Heritage List.

The Committee has adopted the following Guidelines for the production of these plaques:

  • the plaque should be placed so that it can easily be seen by visitors, but does not spoil the view of the site;
  • the World Heritage Emblem should appear on the plaque;
  • the text should mention the property’s exceptional universal value, giving a short description of the site’s outstanding characteristics, if possible. States Parties may use the descriptions appearing in the various World Heritage publications or in the World Heritage exhibit, which may be obtained from the Secretariat;
  • the text should include the World Heritage Convention, the World Heritage List and the international recognition bestowed to inscription on the List (however, it is not necessary to mention at which session of the World Heritage Committee the property was inscribed).
  • It may be appropriate to provide the text in several languages for sites which receive many foreign visitors.

The World Heritage Committee proposes the following text as an example:

“(Name of site) has been inscribed upon the World Heritage List of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Inscription on this List confirms the exceptional universal value of a cultural or natural site which deserves protection for the benefit of all humanity.”

This text could be followed by a brief description of the property.

National authorities should also encourage World Heritage properties to use the Emblem on letterheads, brochures and staff uniforms.

Third parties which have received the right to produce communication products related the the World Heritage Convention and properties must give the Emblem proper visibility. They should avoid creating a different Emblem or logo for that particular product.

Principles for Using the Emblem

The responsible authorities are requested to use the following principles in making decisions on the use of the Emblem:

  • The Emblem should be utilized for all projects substantially associated with the work of the Convention, including, to the maximum extent technically and legally possible, those already approved and adopted, in order to promote the Convention.
  • A decision to approve use of the Emblem should be linked strongly to the quality and content of the product with which it is to be associated, not on the volume of products to be marketed or the financial return expected. The main criterion for approval should be the educational, scientific, cultural, or artistic value of the proposed product related to World Heritage principles and values. Approval should not routinely be granted to place the Emblem on products that have no, or extremely little, educational value, such as cups, T-shirts, pins, and other tourist souvenirs. Exceptions to this policy will be considered for special events, such as meetings of the Committee and ceremonies at which plaques are unveiled.
  • Any decision with respect to authorizing the use of the Emblem must be completely unambiguous and in keeping with the explicit and implicit goals and values of the World Heritage Convention.
  • Except when authorized in accordance with these principles it is not legitimate for commercial entities to use the Emblem directly on their own material to show their support for World Heritage. The Committee recognizees, however, that any individual, organization, or company is free to publish or produce whatever they consider to be appropriate regarding World Heritage properties, but official authorization to do so under the World Heritage Emblem remains the exclusive prerogative of the Committee, to be exercised as prescribed in these Guidelines and Principles.
  • Use of the Emblem by other contracting parties should normally only be authorized when the proposed use deals directly with World Heritage properties. Such uses may be granted after approval by the national authorities of the countries concerned.
  • In cases where no specific World Heritage properties are involved or are not the principal focus of the proposed use, such as general seminars and/or workshops on scientific issues or conservation techniques, use may be granted only upon express approval in accordance with the Guidelines and Principles. Request for such uses should specifically document the manner in which the proposed use is expected to enhance the work of the Convention.
  • Permission to use the Emblem should not be granted to travel agencies, airlines, or to any other type of business operating for predominantly commercial purposes, except under exceptional circumstances and when manifest benefit to the World Heritage generally or particular World Heritage properties can be demonstrated. Requests for such use shall require approval in accordance with these Guidelines and Principles and the concurrence of the national authorities of countries specifically concerned.
    The Centre is not to accept any advertising, travel, or other promotional considerations from travel agencies or other, similar companies in exchange or in lieu of financial remuneration for use of the Emblem.
  • When commercial benefits are anticipated, the Centre should ensure that the World Heritage Fund receives a fair share of the revenues and conclude a contract or other agreement that documents the nature of the understandings that govern the project and the arrangements for provision of income to the Fund. In all cases of commercial use, any staff time and related costs for personnel assigned by the Centre or other reviewers, as appropriate, to any initiative, beyond the nominal, must be fully covered by the party requesting authorization to use the Emblem.
    National authorities are also called upon to ensure that their properties or the World Heritage Fund receive a fair share of the revenues and to document the nature of the understandings that govern the project and the distribution of any proceeds.
  • If sponsors are sought for manufacturing products whose distribution the Centre considers necessary, the choice of partner or partners should be consistent, at a minimum, with the criteria set forth in Annex V of the “Internal Guidelines for Private Sector Fund-Raising in Favour of UNESCO,” and with such further fund-raising guidance as the Committee may prescribe. The necessity for such products should be clarified and justified in written presentations that will require approval in such manner as the Committee may prescribe.

Authorization to use the World Heritage Emblem

National authorities may grant the use of the Emblem to a national entity, provided that the project, whether national or international, involves only World Heritage properties located on the same national territory. National authorities’ decision should be guided by the Guidelines and Principles.

Any other request for authorization to use the Emblem should adopt the following procedure:

A request indicating the objective of the use of the Emblem, its duration and territorial validity, should be addressed to the Director of the World Heritage Centre.

The Director of the World Heritage Centre has the authority to grant the use of the Emblem in accordance with the Guidelines and Principles. For cases not covered, or not sufficiently covered, by the Guidelines and Principles, the Director refers the matter to the Chairperson who, in the most difficult cases, might wish to refer the matter to the Bureau for final decision. A yearly report on the authorized uses of the Emblem will be submitted to the World Heritage Committee.

Authorization to use the Emblem in major products to be widely distributed over an undetermined period of time is conditional upon obtaining the manufacturer’s commitment to consult with countries concerned and secure their endorsement of texts and images illustrating sites situated in their territory, at no cost to the Centre, together with the proof that this has been done. The text to be approved should be provided in either one of the official languages of the Committee or in the language of the country concerned. A draft model form to be used by third parties to obtain States Parties’ authorization for the use of the Emblem appears as an appendix to this document.

After having examined the request and finding it acceptable, the Centre may establish an agreement with the partner.

If the Director judges that a proposed use of the Emblem is not acceptable, the Centre informs the requesting party of the decision in writing.

Quality Control

Authorization to use the Emblem is inextricably linked to the requirement that the national authorities may exert quality control over the products with which it is associated.

The States Parties to the Convention are the only parties authorized to approve the content (images and text) of any distributed product appearing under the World Heritage Emblem with regard to the sites located in their territories.

States Parties that protect the Emblem legally must review these uses.

Other States Parties may elect to review proposed uses or refer such proposals to the World Heritage Centre. States Parties are responsible for identifying an appropriate national authority and for informing the Centre whether they wish to review proposed uses or to identify uses that are inappropriate. The Centre will maintain a list of responsible national authorities.

World Heritage Emblem © UNESCO / UNESCO