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The General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention

As per Article 8(1) of the World Heritage Convention (or Rule 49 of the Rules of Procedure of the World Heritage Committee ), the General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention meets during the sessions of the General Conference of UNESCO.

The General Assembly manages its meetings according to its Rules of Procedure(see document reference WHC-01/GA/1.Rev4). Both the General Assembly and General Conference of UNESCO receive a report from the World Heritage Committee on its activities(Rule 49 of the Rules of Procedure of the World Heritage Committee).

The 23rd session of the General Assembly

The 23rd session of the General Assembly held at UNESCO Headquarters, from 24 to 26 November 2021, in Room II.

During its session, the General Assembly determines the uniform percentage of contributions to the World Heritage Fund applicable to all States Parties (Article 16(1) of the World Heritage Convention), and elects members to the World Heritage Committee.

Access the session page

FAQs about the election of World Heritage Committee members

There are 21 Committee members represented by 21 States Parties to the World Heritage Convention.

Elections to replace outgoing Committee members take place during the General Assembly of States Parties, meeting every two years during the General Conference of UNESCO (Article 8.3of the Convention ).

The 23rd session of the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention will take place during the 41th session of the General Conference of UNESCO in 2021 (dates to be confirmed).

According to the Convention, a Committee member's mandate is for 6 years.

The General Assembly (Resolution 13 GA 9, paragraph 6) invites the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to voluntarily reduce their term of office from six to four years.

In 2021, a total of 12 Committee members will be elected.

Rule 13 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly foresees that “the Secretariat shall ask all States Parties, at least three months prior to the opening of the General Assembly, whether they intend to stand for election to the World Heritage Committee” and that “ the list of candidates shall be finalized 48 hours before the opening of the General Assembly”. Rule 14 (f) provides that “ballot(s) for allocated seat(s) shall precede the ballot(s) for the remaining seats to be filled” and that “unsuccessful candidates in a ballot for any allocated seat shall be eligible to stand for election in subsequent ballot(s)”.

A candidature is submitted for a vacant seat without distinction of whether these seats are allocated seats or open seats. It follows that the Rules of procedure do not foresee the possibility for a State Party to submit a candidature only for an open seat in the World Heritage Committee when allocated seats are vacant.

In addition, only those candidates that have been unsuccessful in a ballot for allocated seats (because they have not been elected) or candidates from an electoral group for which there is no vacant allocated seat at the session may stand for election for an open seat. This procedure does not allow for candidates to stand for election only for open seats when allocated seats are vacant for their respective electoral group.

According to Rule 13.2 of the Rules of procedure of the General Assembly, members of the World Heritage Committee may stand for election again after a gap of 6 years after the expiry of their mandate.

Following the 1st Extraordinary Session (UNESCO, 2014), the General Assembly amended its Rules of Procedures in order to achieve the goal of an equitable geographical and cultural representation on the World Heritage Committee, through the allocation of seats by region (defined with reference to UNESCO’s electoral groups) on the World Heritage Committee.

For more details please refer to Article 14 of the Rules of Procedures.

As per Rule 13.1 of the Rules of procedure of the General Assembly, candidatures should be sent to the Secretariat at least six weeks prior to the opening of the General Assembly.

As per Rule 13.4, this list of candidatures shall be finalised 48 hours before the opening of the General Assembly. No other candidatures nor payments of compulsory and voluntary contributions to the World Heritage Fund (for the purpose of presenting a candidature to the Committee) will be accepted in the 48-hour period prior to the opening of the General Assembly.

Candidatures should be sent to the following address:
The Director
UNESCO World Heritage Centre
7 place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP, France


As per article 16.5 of the Convention:

"Any State Party to the Convention which is in arrears with the payment of its compulsory or voluntary contribution for the current year and the calendar year immediately preceding it shall not be eligible as a Member of the World Heritage Committee, although this provision shall not apply to the first election."

No, there is no provision.

The Rules of Procedure adopted by the General Assembly inNovember 2014 state that “at each election, due consideration shall be given to the election of at least one State Party which has never served as a Member of the World Heritage Committee" (Rule 14.1d).

See Statistics on States Parties.

Please refer to Rule 14 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly: "Election of the members of the World Heritage Committee"

All relevant documentation is available at the following web address : whc.unesco.org/en/documents (select the year, the session, the document reference or the title of the document ....)

With regard to the number of candidatures presented by an electoral group, it is worth recalling Resolution 1 EXT.GA 3 on the revision of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly (in 2014), by which the General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention "reiterate[d] its strong request to States Parties and electoral groups to provide a sufficient number of candidates for each seat and each election to ensure a genuine choice at each election.”

Nevertheless, in the event that an electoral group presents fewer candidates than seats allocated to that group, the General Assembly should be informed at the beginning of the session, and before the elections begin, so that the General Assembly can take a decision on the seat(s) that will remain vacant: allocation within the open seats, allocation to another electoral group, etc. Indeed, Rule 14.1.e) of the Rules of Procedure stipulates that "[i]n case the above formula [note: formula describing the distribution of seats within electoral groups] cannot be practically applied, an exceptional arrangement may be made to accommodate such special circumstances." In any event, the remaining vacant seat(s) shall be filled at the same session and not at subsequent elections, the Committee being composed of 21 members.

General Assembly Rules of Procedure

General Assembly Rules of Procedure
WHC-14/GA/1 Rev. 4

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Historical Development

All General Assembly Sessions

24GA UNESCO Paris (2023)
23GA UNESCO Paris (2021)
22GA UNESCO Paris (2019)
21GA UNESCO Paris (2017)
20GA UNESCO Paris (2015)
1EXTGA UNESCO Paris (2014)
19GA UNESCO Paris (2013)
18GA UNESCO Paris (2011)
17GA UNESCO Paris (2009)
16GA UNESCO Paris (2007)
15GA UNESCO Paris (2005)
14GA UNESCO Paris (2003)
13GA UNESCO Paris (2001)
12GA UNESCO Paris (1999)
11GA UNESCO Paris (1997)
10GA UNESCO Paris (1995)
09GA UNESCO Paris (1993)
08GA UNESCO Paris (1991)
07GA UNESCO Paris (1989)
06GA UNESCO Paris (1987)
05GA Sofia, Bulgaria (1985)
04GA UNESCO Paris (1983)
03GA Belgrade, Yugoslavia (1980)
02GA UNESCO Paris (1978)
01GA Nairobi, Kenya (1976)

All sessions

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