Forty-eight sites will be considered for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List of outstanding cultural and natural sites during the 28th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which will meet at the Urban Planning Convention Center in Suzhou (China) from June 28 to July 7.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will address the inaugural session of the meeting, which will be open to the press (Monday, June 28, 10-11 am, Room XII, accreditation necessary). The 28th session of the World Heritage Committee will be chaired by Zhang Xinsheng, Vice Minister of Education of China and Chairperson of China’s National Commission for UNESCO.

The Committee will consider the inscription of 33 cultural and 8 natural sites this year. They are presented by 36 countries: (Andorra, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Serbia and Montenegro, South Africa, Sweden, Togo, United Kingdom). The Committee will also consider the nomination of seven extensions of previously inscribed sites in five countries (Costa Rica, China, India, Russian Federation, United Kingdom).

A Chinese-language edition of UNESCO’s World Heritage Review will be launched on the first day of the meeting. The Review has been published quarterly by UNESCO since 1996. It comes out in English, French, Spanish and Russian.

In addition, the Committee will review the List of World Heritage in Danger, which currently features 35 sites. These are sites that are seriously threatened by industry or mining pollution, looting, war, uncontrolled tourism, poaching, etc. The list includes sites such as the Minaret and the Archeological Remains of Jam (Afghanistan) and Timbuktu (Mali).

To date the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage protects 754 sites of “outstanding universal value” in 129 States Parties, including 582 cultural and 149 natural sites, and 23 mixed sites. The Convention encourages international cooperation to preserve shared cultural and natural heritage. Its 178 States Parties make it one of the world’s most widely ratified international agreements. Nations that join it promise to protect sites on the World Heritage List, as well heritage of national or regional importance, especially through legal and regulatory measures.

The World Heritage Committee comprises representatives of 21 countries elected for six years. One third of its members are replaced by the General Assembly of the Convention’s signatories every two years. Each year, the Committee adds new sites to the List. Sites are nominated by States Parties and assessed by two advisory bodies – the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) for cultural sites, and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) for natural sites. The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) also gives its opinion and helps to train experts.

The World Heritage Committee is in charge of applying the 1972 Convention. It considers reports on the state of conservation of listed sites and asks signatory countries to take action when necessary. It also oversees the allocation of over US$2 million a year from the World Heritage Fund to pay for urgent operations, training of experts and to encourage technical cooperation. UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre serves as the secretariat of the Committee.

For more information, including the list of World Heritage sites and the work of theWorld Heritage Committee and Centre see: http://whc.unesco.org and, during the meeting, http://www.unesco.org/dossiers/suzhou