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Celebrating 40 years of World Heritage

The World Heritage Convention is the most ratified international treaty for cultural and natural heritage preservation in the world. This year, on its 40th anniversary, the World Heritage Convention celebrates sustainable development and the role of local communities. Due to changing demographics, growing inequalities and diminishing resources, the relationship between heritage conservation and sustainable development is more important than ever. World Heritage has a major role to play…

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Convention Timeline

  • Adoption

    Adoption of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, a unique international treaty linking for the first time the concepts of nature conservation and preservation of cultural properties – recognizing the way people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.

  • Ratification

    The World Heritage Convention formally takes effect upon ratification by the first 20 States Parties. The List of World Heritage in Danger is created to draw attention to properties needing special international consideration and priority assistance. The World Heritage Fund is established to assist States Parties identify, preserve and promote World Heritage sites through both compulsory and voluntary contributions.

  • Operational guidelines

    The World Heritage Committee develops selection criteria for inscribing properties on the World Heritage List, and draws up Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, setting out among other principles those of monitoring and reporting for properties on the List. Ecuador''s Galápagos Islands becomes the first of twelve sites to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

  • Cultural landscapes

    With 377 sites inscribed in the first twenty years of the Convention, the World Heritage Centre is established to oversee the day-to-day management of the Convention. A new category of sites is added, making the Convention the first legal instrument to recognize and protect cultural landscapes.

  • Global Strategy

    The Committee adopts the Global Strategy for a Balanced, Representative and Credible World Heritage List, aimed at addressing the imbalances on the List between regions of the world, and the types of monuments and periods represented. The Strategy marks the progression from a monumental vision of heritage to a much more people-oriented, multifunctional and global vision of World Heritage. The Nara Document on Authenticity is adopted, recognizing the specific nature of heritage values within each cultural context.

  • The "4 Cs"

    On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Convention, the Committee adopts the Budapest Declaration on World Heritage, inviting all stakeholders to support World Heritage conservation through four key Strategic Objectives (the "4 Cs"): Credibility, Conservation, Capacity-building and Communication. The World Heritage Partners Initiative, known today as PACT, is launched to encourage public-private partnerships and set in place a framework through which a wide range of institutions as well as individuals can contribute to the conservation of World Heritage sites around the world.

  • ...and Community

    The World Heritage Committee adds a fifth 'C' – Community – to its Strategic Objectives, highlighting the important role of local communities in preserving World Heritage.

  • 40 years of the Convention

    A year of activities, including events, conferences, workshops, exhibits and a targeted communication campaign, celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the adoption of the World Heritage Convention, with a focus on World Heritage and Sustainable Development: the Role of Local Communities.

95 Events

All 40th anniversary events


Heritage Heals in Hiraizumi
13 February 2012

The Convention

Our Partners

Local Communities and Partners

Dangers and Success Stories

HRH The Prince of Wales

History of the World Heritage Convention

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General

Kishore Rao, Director of the World Heritage Centre

Takumi Kajisha, Managing Director of Panasonic Group

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General

Our World Heritage

Closing celebration

of World Heritage Convention’s 40th anniversary

More videos Programme General Information World Heritage Convention: Looking Ahead (Kishore Rao)

Our World Heritage