On 16 November 2017, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, one of the most powerful international tools for heritage preservation and one of UNESCO's most successful programmes. Almost universally adopted, with 193 signatory countries, the Convention is unique in combining the protection of cultural and natural heritage in one legal instrument. Since its adoption by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972, the World Heritage List has grown to include 1,073 natural, cultural and mixed sites in 167 countries around the world.
World Heritage embodies the great humanist idea that people of all cultures and faiths can unite around the conservation of places of Outstanding Universal Value.
Our sincere gratitude goes to all of you – heritage authorities, experts, site managers, partners and the public – for your continuous support in safeguarding the world’s precious, irreplaceable and fragile cultural and natural heritage for the generations to come. We have come a long way together. Over time, the World Heritage Convention has become the most universal instrument in heritage conservation globally.
Together, for 45 years, we have worked on identifying and protecting the world’s most outstanding places.
For 45 years, thanks to the Convention, hundreds of communities have preserved their natural environment and enhanced their cultural heritage, in order to pass it on to their children, and to honor their ancestors.
Heritage unites us regardless of our background and culture. Today, we unite for heritage, as the challenges to preserving our heritage become more complex. In a world where we are witnessing the pillage and intentional destruction of historical and cultural sites, and where disasters and effects of climate change threaten our living environment, we must renew our efforts to protect and transmit our heritage to future generations.
Today, the protection of heritage is fully recognized as a key security issue, which cannot be separated from the protection of human lives in times of conflict – this was expressed in two recent and historical decisions of the United Nations Security Council: Resolution 2199, adopted in February 2015 and Resolution 2347, adopted in March 2017.
Today, the role of heritage and cultural diversity in fostering sustainable development is fully recognized. As a driver for robust economies and stronger societies, sustainable development provides citizens with decent jobs and a future to look forward to.
World Heritage is not just a list of marvelous sites – it is a vision for peace with the power to change the minds of women and men and to shape a sustainable future for all. It is about mobilizing heritage as a force for creativity, innovation and sustainable development, all of which are at the heart of UNESCO’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Heritage is not a luxury -- it is a precious asset. I would like to encourage everyone, including national and local authorities, site managers, members of academia and the press, to make your best efforts for the promotion and preservation of our shared heritage. I also encourage every tourist and visitor to respect and cherish these irreplaceable World Heritage sites. There will be no global sustainable future for humanity without the engagement of each one of us.