The World Heritage Convention
The most significant feature of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.
The "Five Cs"
Strengthen the Credibility of the World Heritage List, as a representative and geographically balanced testimony of cultural and natural properties of outstanding universal value.
Ensure the effective Conservation of World Heritage properties.
Promote the development of effective Capacity-building measures, including assistance for preparing the nomination of properties to the World Heritage List, for the understanding and implementation of the World Heritage Convention and related instruments.
Increase public awareness, involvement and support for World Heritage through communication.
Enhance the role of communities in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
The Convention defines the kind of natural or cultural sites which can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List.
The Convention sets out the duties of States Parties in identifying potential sites and their role in protecting and preserving them. By signing the Convention, each country pledges to conserve not only the World Heritage sites situated on its territory, but also to protect its national heritage. The States Parties are encouraged to integrate the protection of the cultural and natural heritage into regional planning programmes, set up staff and services at their sites, undertake scientific and technical conservation research and adopt measures which give this heritage a function in the day-to-day life of the community.
It explains how the World Heritage Fund is to be used and managed and under what conditions international financial assistance may be provided.
The Convention stipulates the obligation of States Parties to report regularly to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of their World Heritage properties. These reports are crucial to the work of the Committee as they enable it to assess the conditions of the sites, decide on specific programme needs and resolve recurrent problems.
It also encourages States Parties to strengthen the appreciation of the public for World Heritage properties and to enhance their protection through educational and information programmes.
The idea of creating an international movement for protecting heritage emerged after World War I. The 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage developed from the merging of two separate movements: the first focusing on the preservation of cultural sites, and the other dealing with the conservation of nature.
The Convention Timeline
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. The Convention was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.
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.
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.
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.
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 World Heritage Committee adds a fifth 'C' – Community – to its Strategic Objectives, highlighting the important role of local communities in preserving World Heritage.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the 1,000th site inscribed on the World Heritage List. This delta comprises permanent marshlands and seasonally flooded plains, and is home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.
The “Warsaw Recommendation on Recovery and Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage” was developed at the ‘International conference on reconstruction: The challenges of World Heritage recovery’ held in Warsaw, Poland, from 6 to 8 May. These are universal guidelines for the recovery and reconstruction of World Heritage properties following armed conflict or disasters caused by natural hazards, notably for historic urban areas.
A year of activities, including events, conferences, workshops, exhibits and a targeted communication campaign, celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of the World Heritage Convention...
Preserving cultural heritage
The event that aroused particular international concern was the decision to build the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, which would have flooded the valley containing the Abu Simbel temples , a treasure of ancient Egyptian civilization. In 1959, after an appeal from the governments of Egypt and Sudan, UNESCO launched an international safeguarding campaign. Archaeological research in the areas to be flooded was accelerated. Above all, the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were dismantled, moved to dry ground and reassembled.
The campaign cost about US$80 million, half of which was donated by some 50 countries, showing the importance of solidarity and nations' shared responsibility in conserving outstanding cultural sites. Its success led to other safeguarding campaigns, such as saving Venice and its Lagoon (Italy) and the Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro (Pakistan) , and restoring the Borobodur Temple Compounds (Indonesia).
Consequently, UNESCO initiated, with the help of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the preparation of a draft convention on the protection of cultural heritage.
Linking the protection of cultural and natural heritage
The idea of combining conservation of cultural sites with those of nature comes from the United States of America. A White House Conference in Washington, D.C., in 1965 called for a ‘World Heritage Trust’ that would stimulate international cooperation to protect ‘the world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry’. In 1968, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) developed similar proposals for its members. These proposals were presented to the 1972 United Nations conference on Human Environment in Stockholm.
Eventually, a single text was agreed upon by all parties concerned. The Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.
The same General Conference adopted on 16 November 1972 the Recommendation concerning the Protection, at National Level, of the Cultural and Natural Heritage.
By regarding heritage as both cultural and natural, the Convention reminds us of the ways in which people interact with nature, and of the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.
The overarching benefit of ratifying the World Heritage Convention is that of belonging to an international community of appreciation and concern for universally significant properties that embody a world of outstanding examples of cultural diversity and natural wealth.
The States Parties to the Convention , by joining hands to protect and cherish the world's natural and cultural heritage, express a shared commitment to preserving our legacy for future generations.
The prestige that comes from being a State Party to the Convention and having sites inscribed on the World Heritage List often serves as a catalyst to raising awareness for heritage preservation.
A key benefit of ratification, particularly for developing countries, is access to the World Heritage Fund . Annually, about US$4 million is made available to assist States Parties in identifying, preserving and promoting World Heritage sites. Emergency assistance may also be made available for urgent action to repair damage caused by human-made or natural disasters. In the case of sites included on the List of World Heritage in Danger , the attention and the funds of both the national and the international community are focused on the conservation needs of these particularly threatened sites.
Today, the World Heritage concept is so well understood that sites on the List are a magnet for international cooperation and may thus receive financial assistance for heritage conservation projects from a variety of sources.
Sites inscribed on the World Heritage List also benefit from the elaboration and implementation of a comprehensive management plan that sets out adequate preservation measures and monitoring mechanisms. In support of these, experts offer technical training to the local site management team.
Finally, the inscription of a site on the World Heritage List brings an increase in public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site. When these are well planned for and organized respecting sustainable tourism principles, they can bring important funds to the site and to the local economy.
and Accession Form
- Call for Expressions of Interest for the Evaluation of the UNESCO World Heritage Capacity-Building Strategy 22-Feb-2022
- 49th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, 16 November 16-Nov-2021
- 48th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, 16 November 13-Nov-2020
- Ethiopia receives support in preparation of World Heritage nomination files 15-Sep-2020
- Historic visit by Director-General of UNESCO to Somalia to support human dimension of reconstruction through education and culture 11-Feb-2020
- 47th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention 16-Nov-2019
- Ethiopia hosts technical workshop for potential natural World Heritage sites 01-Oct-2019
- Message of the Director of the World Heritage Centre at the occasion of the 45th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention 16-Nov-2017
- Inclusion of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention ratification in Somalia’s National Development Plan 06-Jun-2016
- World Heritage Convention turns 40 16-Nov-2012