The 7th Extraordinary Session of the World Heritage Committee opened on 6 December 2004 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, under the chairmanship of Mr Themba P. Wakashe from South Africa. The session will last until 11 December 2004.

This important meeting will examine, among other items, the relations between the Convention for the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted in 1972 and other UNESCO conventions relating to heritage, and in particular the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, adopted in 2003.

The Committee will also examine proposals for the revision of the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. This session will also serve as an occasion to examine several progress reports of the regional Periodic Reporting exercise, as well as financial and administrative matters.

The World Heritage Committee consists of representatives of 21 States Parties elected by the General Assembly for terms up to six years. It is in charge of the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. Each year, during its regular session, the Committee adds new sites to the World Heritage List. It examines reports on the state of conservation of listed sites and asks signatory countries to take action when necessary. The Committee oversees the allocation of the World Heritage Fund. It also decides on the inscription of sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

To date the World Heritage Convention protects 788 sites of “outstanding universal value” in 134 States Parties, including 611 cultural and 154 natural sites, and 23 mixed sites.

The 29th session of the Committee will be held in Durban, South Africa in July 2005.