Synergies to protect Global Heritage
Cooperation with other Conventions and programmes
The World Heritage Committee recognises the benefits of closer coordination and synergies between global conservation instruments (Operational Guidelines Paragraphs 41-44).
The World Heritage Centre reports to the World Heritage Committee annually on synergies with other culture and biodiversity-related Conventions.
Synergies at the
How we use synergies and data on multiple protections at WHC on a daily basis.
Review of working methods, planning for statutory meetings, resource mobilization...
Contribute towards conserving and sustainably using biodiversity.
the international site
Coordination and cooperation among the key international site-based designations.
Synergies at the World Heritage Centre
Over 15% of World Heritage Properties are protected by at least 1 other multilateral agreement or programme. The World Heritage Centre collects and presents relevant information in its database.
The World Heritage List
The World Heritage database incorporates overlapping protections to provide a more advanced search functionality, facilitating States Parties, researchers, NGO's and individuals to extract very specific data and graphs. Every World Heritage Property page has an additional box with links to their corresponding protections.
The Periodic Reporting Cycle 3 uses Synergies to question the States Parties and Site Managers on how they cooperate with the different conservation instruments and how overlapping protection is being used to ensure the conservation of heritage.
At the World Heritage Centre, we use Synergies to keep our databases updated on the latest developments on global conservation for both cultural and biodiversity-related World Heritage Properties. Through very specific searches on The List, anyone can generate meaningful graphs and data tables with an extensive set of filters.
Synergies among UNESCO Culture Conventions
Review of working methods, planning for statutory meetings and coordination of funding and resource mobilization ...
Further to Decisions 33 COM 5 and 34 COM 5E adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) and 34th session (Brasilia, 2010) respectively, the World Heritage Centre prepared an information document to the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session (Saint Petersburg, 2012) to provide an update on the relationships between the 1972 Convention and the other UNESCO conventions in the field of culture.
UNESCO has established the Culture Conventions Liaison Group (CCLG) to reinforce synergies among its six culture conventions. The work includes review of working methods, planning for statutory meetings and coordination of funding and resource mobilization.
UNESCO also coordinates meetings of the chairpersons of the intergovernmental committees of the six UNESCO Culture Conventions, who met for the first time in Bonn, Germany, on 29 June 2015, on the occasion of the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee. The statement by the chairs recognizes the importance to enhance the synergies and mutual reinforcement among the conventions, and encourages further sustained efforts to achieve this goal.
The second meeting of the chairpersons of the committees of UNESCO culture conventions was organised at UNESCO Headquarters on 26 September 2016. The chairs discussed safeguarding cultural heritage and cultural diversity in times of conflict and the role of the culture conventions in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Synergies among biodiversity-related Conventions
Enhanced coordination and cooperation at different levels
Although each of the seven biodiversity-related Convention is different, they all contribute towards conserving and sustainably using biodiversity. Therefore, enhanced coordination and cooperation at different levels can be mutually beneficial, leading to effective implementation. A detailed report on synergies between the World Heritage Convention and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) was provided to the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). An update of this cooperation was provided within an information document presented to the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session (Saint Petersburg, 2012).
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre is a member of the Liaison Group of Biodiversity-related Conventions, a key mechanism for interaction among the Secretariats of the seven key biodiversity-related conventions. UNESCO also takes part in a number of other initiatives to increase coordination and cooperation, including the United Nations Information Portal on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (InforMEA) to improve knowledge sharing.
The World Heritage Convention can significantly contribute to the objectives of other biodiversity-related Conventions and vice versa. The World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands are the only two biodiversity conventions with a specific focus on site based conservation. Moreover, many World Heritage properties and Ramsar sites across the five continents contain critical habitats and refuges vital for migratory birds, contributing to the objectives of the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS).
The World Heritage Committee has also expressed its concerns about the impacts of poaching and the illicit wildlife trade on World Heritage properties and called for strengthened cooperation with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (Decision 40 COM 7). Several World Heritage properties are also monitored by CITES under its Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme. A report on these interlinkages has been provided by the CITES secretariat, including a summary of discussions between the Secretariats.
The secretariats of the seven biodiversity related conventions also carry out joint awareness raising activities, which have included Joint Statement by the Liaison Group of the Biodiversity-related Conventions on the occasion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 25-27 September 2015, and Message from biodiversity-related conventions: UN Sustainable Development Goals and the CBD Aichi Biodiversity Targets on the occasion of the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress.
The Policy Document for the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the World Heritage Convention adopted by the General Assembly of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention at its 20th session (Paris, 2015) recognises that in implementing the Convention, States Parties should promote environmental sustainability more generally at all World Heritage properties in order to ensure policy coherence and mutual supportiveness with other multilateral environmental agreements.
The effective and timely implementation of the different Conventions requires active involvement and collaboration between national focal points and responsible national authorities. A number of resources already exists on the options and opportunities to increase synergies and harmonised implementation of the biodiversity-related conventions. For a list of useful resources, see also World Heritage and Biodiversity.
Synergies among the international site designations
Key international site-based designations
Within the United Nations, UNESCO has a unique mandate to designate natural areas of significance for all humanity. It does so through three intergovernmental instruments – the World Heritage Convention, the Man and the Biosphere Programme, with its World Network of Biosphere Reserves, and the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme.
The four key international site-based designations, including the World Heritage properties, the Biosphere Reserves, the UNESCO Global Geoparks, and the Ramsar Sites under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands have both similarities and differences. UNESCO has published a quick reference guide to help understand how the different site based conservation instruments function, how they differ, and how they complement each other. Moreover, UNESCO has been active in communicating the opportunities for synergies and a special issue of the World Heritage review (No. 70) is devoted to synergies for protecting sites.
UNESCO supports coordination and cooperation among the designation mechanisms, which is particularly important at areas recognised simultaneously under several international designations. IUCN, in close collaboration with UNESCO and the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, has published guidance on harmonising the management of Multi-Internationally Designated Areas (MIDAs).
The World Heritage Committee recognises the advantages of synergies between the World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Convention, calling upon joint reactive monitoring missions to sites which are covered under both Conventions, such as Doňana National Park in Spain, Ichkeul National Park in Tunisia, Djoudj National Park in Senegal and Virunga National Park in DRC.
In July 2021, UNESCO’s side event at the High-Level Political Forum 2021 showcased solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation, using concrete examples from UNESCO's unique global network of designated sites, which are important models for building resilience to climate change and reconciling people and nature. The event on 6 July 2021 was opened and moderated by Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences. She shared a message from Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the relevant activities of more than 2,000 UNESCO designated sites to promote sustainable solutions. The UNESCO global network of sites covers approximately 6% of the Earth’s landmass and comprises 1,154 World Heritage Sites, 714 Biosphere Reserves and 169 UNESCO Global Geoparks distributed all over the world.
World Heritage and Biodiversity
Man and Biosphere Programme
UNESCO Global Geoparks
Liaison Group of Biodiversity-related Conventions
UNESCO and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) Joint Programme on Biological and Cultural Diversity
UNEP – Coherence and Synergy on the Implementation of MEAs
UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre – Synergies among MEAs
UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre – Harmonization of National Reporting
Decisions / Resolutions (3)
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/11, WHC-15/39.COM/10.B, WHC-15/39.COM/13A and WHC-15/39.COM/INF.13A,
- Recalling Decision 37 COM 12.II, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
- Decides to establish a Consultative Body under Rule 20 of the Rules of Procedure during its 39th session;
- Adopts the proposed revisions of the Operational Guidelines, as presented in the marked-up version attached to this Decision, namely concerning paragraphs 28, 31, 38, 40, 44, 62, 66, 71, 80, 98, 99, 102, 111, 112, 115, 116, 122, 123, 128, 132, 140, 141, 143, 148, 149, 155, 159, 160, 164, 165, 166, 168, 169, 176, 180, 181, 184, 192, 232, 241, 252, 260, 262, 263, 265, 266, 275, 276, 278, Annex 2B, 5, 6, 13 and 14 as well as the Bibliography;
- Decides to extend the mandate of the ad hoc working group extended by one extra regional group representative who is not a member of the World Heritage Committee, established at the 38th session (Doha, 2014) to be convened by Turkey, to further discuss and make recommendations on Paragraph 61 as well as on the sustainability of the World Heritage Fund;
- Further decides to suggest that the 20th General Assembly of States Parties in November 2015 discuss the recommendations of the ad hoc working group in order for the latter to submit its final recommendations to the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2016 for a decision;
- Requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to produce, subject to extra-budgetary funding, a guidance document on urban heritage, including its definition, identification, conservation and management, based on the Historic Urban Landscape approach;
- Also decides that Annex 3 to the Operational Guidelines should be reviewed entirely so as to include definitions and relevant guidance for States Parties in the preparation of Tentative Lists, nominations, management and reporting systems and also requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to organise an Experts meeting, subject to extra-budgetary funding, to provide recommendations for the revision of Annex 3;
- Welcomes the reflections on the interaction between the World Heritage Convention and the 1954 Hague Convention and its Second Protocol (1999) and further requests the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, in consultation with the Secretariat of the Hague Convention (1954), to consider options for further developing concrete synergies and coordinating reporting mechanisms between the World Heritage Convention and the Second Protocol (1999) of the Hague Convention (1954) for the next revision of the Operational Guidelines in 2017 and while revising the Periodic Reporting Format during the Reflection Period towards the Third Cycle of Periodic Reporting;
- Also welcomes the inclusion of paragraphs which address issues related to indigenous peoples and World Heritage and reiterates its decision to re-examine the recommendations of the International Expert Workshop on the World Heritage Convention and Indigenous Peoples (Copenhagen, 2012) following the results of the discussions to be held by the Executive Board on the UNESCO policy on indigenous peoples;
- Also decides, on an exceptional basis, to re-examine Paragraphs 61 and 68 as well as Annex 2A at its 40th session in 2016;
- Further requests the World Heritage Centre to propose a revised version of Chapter V and Annex 7 of the Operational Guidelines to be examined by the Committee at its 41th session in 2017;
- Requests furthermore the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies to undertake consultations on Paragraph 108 and subsequent paragraphs where references are made to management plans and management systems in order to address inconsistencies and ambiguities, and to provide further clarifications based on current thinking and the contents of the Resource Manuals, for consideration during the next revision of the Operational Guidelines in 2019;
- Requests furthermore the World Heritage Centre to proceed with the corrections of language inconsistencies between the English and French versions of the Operational Guidelines.
 The adopted version, dated 8 July 2015, is available in PDF format at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/39COM/decisionsRead more about the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined document WHC-10/34.COM/5E,
2. Notes with interest the above-mentioned document;
3. Invites the World Heritage Centre to strengthen the links between the 1972 Convention and 2005 Convention on the Safeguarding and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions;
4. Also invites all States Parties to the 1972 Convention to become party to other standard-setting instruments of UNESCO in the field of culture, and to coordinate the initiatives they develop for the implementation of the different conventions;
5. Recalls its Decisions 28 COM 12 (Suzhou, 2004) and 7 EXT.COM 9 (UNESCO, 2004) requesting an enhanced collaboration between the Secretariats of the Conventions in the field of culture, in respect of their specificities;
6. Encourages the information exchanges and the participation at committee sessions of the different conventions;
7. Also notes the outcome of the "International Conference on Cultural and Biological Diversity for Development", which took place in Montreal (Canada) from 8 to 10 June 2010, with the participation of the 1972, 2003 and 2005 Convention Secretariats, as well as the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).Read more about the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Documents WHC-09/33.COM/5A, WHC- 09/33.COM/INF.5A.1, WHC-09/33.COM/INF.5A.2, and WHC-09/33.COM/INF.5A.3,
2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 5 adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),
3. Takes note with appreciation of the activities undertaken by the World Heritage Centre over the past year in pursuit of the Committee's five Strategic Objectives;
4. Takes also note of the findings of the study undertaken by UNESCO's Internal Oversight Service on the mapping of the workload of the World Heritage Centre presented in Document WHC-09/33.COM/INF.5A.3;
5. Notes with satisfaction that the World Heritage Centre is working with the secretariats of intergovernmental committees of related conventions such as the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and the Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage-2001 and recommends that such cooperation be encouraged as this would further strengthen the work of the Centre;
6. Requests the World Heritage Centre to prepare a document on the World Heritage Convention and its cooperation and exchange with other conventions and programmes in the field of cultural heritage for discussion at the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee (2010);
7. Also requests the World Heritage Centre, in future reports on activities undertaken, to further strengthen the information and analysis available to States Parties by:
a) Retaining the current format to report activities and including an update on progress with implementing the Committee's decisions,
b) Describing the criteria by which the World Heritage Centre makes decisions as to which activities under the Convention it undertakes,
c) And including, on a discretionary basis, analysis of strategic issues and new directions;
8. Further requests the World Heritage Centre to produce, on an experimental basis, an indexed audio verbatim recording of the proceedings of the 33rd Session in addition to the standard summary records (as produced since the 26th session of the World Heritage Committee);
9. Notes the outline provided by the World Heritage Centre of its roles and the roles of the Advisory Bodies and agrees that this topic be further discussed at the 34th session of the Committee in 2010 under a separate agenda item;
10. Requests furthermore the World Heritage Centre to outline the forward direction of the World Heritage thematic programmes and initiatives, to enable an understanding of how these themes connect with and integrate into general programmes, and how they might be resourced;
11. Notes that the Centre already proactively engages women in its Heritage Programmes in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean as part of its gender balance policy and the provision of equal opportunity to all, and recommends that gender balance and community involvement be prioritized in the Centre's programmes;
12. Adopts the World Heritage Thematic Programme on Prehistory presented in Annex 1 of document WHC-09/33.COM/5A;
13. Requests the World Heritage Centre to reconsider the term "prehistory", to better recognize the continuing cultures of indigenous communities, to ensure global representation in the identification and conservation of related properties, and to present a report on progress in developing an Action Plan on Prehistory and World Heritage at its 34th session in 2010;
14. Notes with concern the ongoing destruction of some of these fragile sites, including the recent destruction of the Rock Art sites of Tardrat Acacus in Libya, and requests the State Party to take immediate action and other measures as necessary to address the problem in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS mission;
15. Expresses its gratitude to the Governments of Bahrain, South Africa and Spain for the financial and technical support for the various international scientific encounters, and recognizesthe proposal of the Government of Spain in establishing a centre for the research of Prehistory;
16. Recalling the Decision of the World Heritage Committee 31 COM.21C to carry out a programme of sustainable development concerning the conservation of earthen architecture, thanks the Governments of Italy and France for their support of the programme on earthen architecture in Africa and the Arab States in particular, and requests the potential financial donors and the States Parties to support the implementation of activities and further requests the World Heritage Centre to submit a progress report at its 35th session in 2011;
17. Takes note of the progress report on the World Heritage Tourism Programme;
18. Thanks the Governments of Australia, China, France, India, Switzerland and United Kingdom, who have worked in close collaboration with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, the World Tourism Organization and other partners, for contributing to the Initiative of Sustainable Tourism;
19. Expresses its gratitude to the Governments of Australia and China for the organization of a workshop on sustainable tourism at the World Heritage site, Mogao Caves, China, in September-October 2009 and requests that the following elements be submitted to the Committee for examination at its 34th session in 2010:
a) A report on the workshop,
b) The subsequent recommendations of the workshop regarding the adoption of best practices policy guidance, and concerning the changes proposed for the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention,
c) A document concerning the progress of the World Heritage Programme on Tourism;
20. Finally requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre to identify supplementary sources of funding to put into place a sufficient number of staff and resources at the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in order to continue to efficiently contribute to the resolution of problems related to World Heritage conservation.Read more about the decision