In 1994, the World Heritage Committee launched the Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List. Its aim is to ensure that the List reflects the world's cultural and natural diversity of outstanding universal value.
Twenty-two years after the adoption of the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the World Heritage List lacked balance in the type of inscribed properties and in the geographical areas of the world that were represented. Among the 410 properties, 304 were cultural sites and only 90 were natural and 16 mixed, while the vast majority is located in developed regions of the world, notably in Europe. This section includes the objectives of the Global Strategy, analysis of the need for it, on-going efforts and related conferences and studies.
The objectives of the Global Strategy
By adopting the Global Strategy, the World Heritage Committee wanted to broaden the definition of World Heritage to better reflect the full spectrum of our world’s cultural and natural treasures and to provide a comprehensive framework and operational methodology for implementing the World Heritage Convention.
This new vision goes beyond the narrow definitions of heritage and strives to recognize and protect sites that are outstanding demonstrations of human coexistence with the land as well as human interactions, cultural coexistence, spirituality and creative expression.
Crucial to the Global Strategy are efforts to encourage countries to become States Parties to the Convention, to prepare Tentative Lists and to prepare nominations of properties from categories and regions currently not well-represented on the World Heritage List.
A global study carried out by ICOMOS from 1987 to 1993 revealed that Europe, historic towns and religious monuments, Christianity, historical periods and ‘elitist’ architecture (in relation to vernacular) were all over-represented on the World Heritage List; whereas, all living cultures, and especially ‘traditional cultures’, were underrepresented.
At its 28th session in 2004, the World Heritage Committee reviewed more recent analyses of the World Heritage List and the Tentative Lists prepared by ICOMOS and IUCN. Both analyses were carried out on regional, chronological, geographical and thematic basis’ in order to evaluate the progress of the Global Strategy.
ICOMOS’ study found that the reasons for the gaps in the World Heritage List fall into two main categories: structural – relating to the World Heritage nomination process, and to managing and protecting cultural properties; and qualitative – relating to the way properties are identified, assessed and evaluated.
IUCN’s study pointed out that the natural and mixed sites currently inscribed on the World Heritage List cover almost all regions and habitats of the world with a relatively balanced distribution. However, there are still major gaps in the World Heritage List for natural areas such as: tropical/temperate grasslands, savannas, lake systems, tundra and polar systems, and cold winter deserts.
Since the launching of the Global Strategy, 39 new countries have ratified the World Heritage Convention, many from small Pacific Island States, Eastern Europe, Africa and Arab States.
The number of countries around the globe that have signed the World Heritage Convention in the course of the last ten years has risen from 139 to 178. The number of States Parties who have submitted Tentative Lists complying with the format established by the Committee has grown from 33 to 132. New categories for World Heritage sites have also been promoted, such as the categories of cultural landscapes, itineraries, industrial heritage, deserts, coastal-marine and small-island sites.
Important conferences and thematic studies aimed at implementing the Global Strategy have been held in Africa, the Pacific and Andean sub-regions, the Arab and Caribbean regions, central Asia and south-east Asia. These well-focused studies have become important guides for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in these regions.
In an effort to further enhance the underrepresented categories of sites and improve geographical coverage, the World Heritage Committee has recently decided to limit the number of nominations that can be presented by each State Party and the number of nominations it will review during its session.
The World Heritage Committee works in cooperation with every State Party to the World Heritage Convention as well as its three Advisory Bodies: ICOMOS, IUCN and ICCROM, in order to make greater strides in diversifying the World Heritage List and make it truly balanced and representative of the world’s heritage.
Expert meetings and studies
Conferences and studies aimed at implementing the Global Strategy have been held or are planned in Africa, the Pacific region, the Arab region, the Andean region, the Caribbean, central Asia and southeast Asia.
- Report of the Expert Meeting on the "Global Strategy" and thematic studies for a representative World Heritage List (UNESCO Headquarters, 20-22 June 1994)
- Report of the 18th Session of the World Heritage Committee (Phuket, Thailand, 12-17 December 1994)
- African Cultural Heritage and the World Heritage Convention , First Global Strategy Meeting (Harare, Zimbabwe, 11-13 October 1995)
- Reports of the Experts Meeting on Evaluation of general principles and criteria for nominations of natural World Heritage sites (22-24 March 1996)
- Fortifcaciones del Caribe: Memorias de la reunion de expertos , Cartegena de los Indios, Colombia, 31 July - 2 August 1996
- Identification of World Heritage properties in the Pacific, Findings and Recommendations , Third Global Strategy Meeting, Suva, Fiji, 15-18 July 1997
- Identification of Potential Natural Heritage Sites in Arab Countries , (Cairo, 1997)
- Report on the World Heritage Global Strategy Natural and Cultural Heritage Expert Meeting , 25 -29 March 1998, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- Report of the Regional Thematic Meeting on Cultural Landscapes in the Andes , Arquipa/Chivay, Peru, 17-22 May 1998
- Synthetic Report of the 4th Global Strategy Meeting for Western Africa , Benin, 16-19 September 1998
- Second World Heritage Global Strategy Meeting for the Pacific , Port Vila (Vanuatu) 24-27 August 1999
- Hanoi Statement , World Heritage Marine Biodiversity Workshop, Hanoi, Vietnam, 25 February - 1 March 2002
- Linking Universal and Local Values: Managing a Sustainable Future for World Heritage
(Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 22-24 May 2003)
- 30-31 August 2004, Nordic World Heritage Fundation Meeting, Vega, Norway
Thematic and comparative studies