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World Heritage

Online Map Platform

Funded by the Flanders UNESCO Trustfund (FUT), this project aims to develop an online geographic information system for World Heritage in Europe and North America.

Over a thousand properties are currently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, almost half of which are located in Europe and North America. To preserve the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of World Heritage sites, potential impacts need to be swiftly identified and located.

The attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value of a World Heritage property are incorporated within the property’s boundaries, with buffer zones providing an extra layer of protection where needed. The delineation of these boundaries is an essential requirement for the effective protection of World Heritage properties. Clear and reliable maps of World Heritage sites are thus crucial to ensure the effective preservation of our world’s shared heritage.

Currently, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre has maps of varying quality. Some maps do not include a scale bar, legend, or orientation, are not linked to a geographical coordinate system, or are not translated in one of the working languages of the World Heritage Convention. Providing georeferenced maps at the time of inscription is encouraged but not required. The inconsistency of the available World Heritage maps hampers the effective monitoring of the state of conservation of World Heritage properties.

Geographic Information System data collection

UNESCO is currently collecting Geographic Information System (GIS) data to populate the online platform, inviting States Parties to share this data for the World Heritage properties located on their territory. In order to streamline the data collection, UNESCO is inviting States Parties to submit their geospatial data through an online submission form.

Submissions should be received by UNESCO 
by 30 June 2022 at the latest (midnight Paris time, UTC+1).

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Objectives

In this context, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre will develop an online Geographic Information System (GIS) for World Heritage. GIS is a tool to store, process, analyze and visualize spatial information. The project will focus on Europe and North America as a pilot region and the online platform will include georeferenced World Heritage boundaries and buffer zones.

The project will first collect georeferenced maps of World Heritage properties in Europe and North America. It will then develop an online platform where these maps can be accessed, visualized, and analyzed. World Heritage stakeholders will thus have access to an effective online tool for improved knowledge management and monitoring of the state of conservation of World Heritage in Europe and North America.

Multiple layers of information can be added to the system, such as factors affecting the properties, with an advanced multi-search engine enabling precise data visualization and extraction. The platform will enhance understanding of World Heritage boundaries and buffer zones and help identify potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of natural and cultural heritage in the region, assisting States Parties to improve monitoring and better protect heritage on their territory. The project’s outcomes will directly contribute to the objectives and goals of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular Goal 11 Target 11.4 “Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage”.

The platform is expected to

Strengthen protection of the OUV of World Heritage properties in Europe and North America by providing an online geographic information system for State Parties, which enables enhanced state of conservation monitoring.
Improve the  quality and consistency of World Heritage maps of properties Europe and North America, to facilitate access and analysis of geographic World Heritage data.
Create a deeper understanding of the attributes of OUV of which are incorporated within the boundaries of World Heritage properties, in order to develop adequate management systems.
Facilitate planning and preparing of more precise and complex Heritage Impact Assessments, Environmental Impact Assessments, and other relevant documents for State Parties, by providing accessible and accurate maps of World Heritage boundaries and buffer zones.

Funded by the Government of Flanders (Belgium) through the Flanders UNESCO Trustfund (FUT), the project is currently in its first stage of development. The project runs from 1 October 2021 to 31 January 2023.

Dates
Date Start: Friday, 1 October 2021
Date end: Tuesday, 31 January 2023
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