About the Compendium

The World Heritage Policy Compendium is a database of the policies that have guided the implementation of the World Heritage Convention since its adoption in 1972. The Policy Compendium assembles the policies adopted by the World Heritage Committee and General Assembly of States Parties in their decisions, resolutions and other


Provide a consolidated source of policy decisions
made under the Convention
Improve decision-making
by the World Heritage Committee and States Parties for the better implementation of the World Heritage Convention and for the conservation, management and protection of World Heritage properties in the future
Improve understanding
by States Parties so they can better address the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission of cultural and natural heritage through the implementation of the Convention, as well as preparation of nomination files
Function as a guidance tool
contributing to the management by the States Parties of World Heritage properties when addressing key challenges
Assist States Parties in reviewing
their policies, legal systems, institutional infrastructure and governance mechanisms related to management of World Heritage properties
Promote capacity building
of States Parties for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention including stronger awareness on environmental, social and economic challenges to World Heritage conservation.


In accordance with a sequence of decisions taken by the World Heritage Committee since 2011 (35 COM 12B, 37 COM 13, 39 COM 12, 40 COM 12, 42 COM 11), it aims to provide States Parties and stakeholders with a consolidated source of policy decisions made under the Convention. In addition, it could guide policy makers and heritage professionals in establishing adequate mechanisms within their legislation and heritage protection and conservation mechanisms.

Policy applies to a class of circumstances and enables consistency. Consistency is important not just within the World Heritage Committee, but also in the actions of other World Heritage actors including the Advisory Bodies, States Parties, local governments and local communities. There is a need to promote consistency between the World Heritage Convention and other United Nations programmes, which create a number of policies that are relevant to the conservation of World Heritage properties. The World Heritage Convention and its implementation can therefore clearly benefit from this repository of knowledge compiled into the Policy Compendium.

It is important to understand that the Policy Compendium does not create new policies, but compiles already existing ones, adopted by World Heritage Convention governing bodies. Therefore, it does not replace any other previous statutory document, text or decision adopted, but provides a new source and instrument to understand the Convention from a policy-development approach.

Structure of the Policy Compendium

The Compendium is organized thematically according to the 5 Strategic Objectives of the World Heritage Convention - Credibility, Conservation, Capacity Building, Communication and Communities - and a further category of General Policies as a first chapter.

These six themes are further organized into thematic subcategories, reflecting other classifications present at different World Heritage Convention tools (for example, Periodic Reporting, State of Conservation database, etc.).

Target audiences

The World Heritage Committee and the States Parties to the Convention are the primary audience for the Policy Compendium, with those directly involved in the processes of implementation and the management of World Heritage properties (including Advisory Bodies to the Convention, regional and local authorities, site managers, owners of/within World Heritage properties, local communities, including indigenous peoples, and other relevant stakeholders) as another major audience. There is also a wider audience for academics and others with an interest in the World Heritage Convention.


The development of the Policy Compendium should be considered within the overall context of the reflection undertaken since 2011 on the future of the 1972 Convention. The objective of this reflection is to strengthen the worldwide implementation of the Convention, including through the revision of working procedures and statutory documents.

At its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011), the World Heritage Committee launched an initiative to develop a document capturing the range of policies that the Committee and the General Assembly adopt (Decision 35 COM 12B). The preparatory phase of the project was launched in 2015 thanks to the funding provided by the Government of Australia. A Scoping Study on the framework and content of the compendium was carried out by ICCROM and the World Heritage Centre and was approved by the World Heritage Committee Decision 40 COM 12, with a proposal to rename the document as 'A Compendium of Policy of the World Heritage Convention', in short 'Policy Compendium'.

From 2017 to 2019, the World Heritage Centre assembled policies for the development of the Policy Compendium, working together with a group of cultural and natural World Heritage experts, the Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Convention, and in consultation with other World Heritage stakeholders. This work was organized in 2 phases:

Phase 1

After the preparatory work that resulted in the Scoping Study, the World Heritage Centre undertook extensive research focused on identifying policy resources from the Convention, a methodology for the compilation and a possible internal structure. This work resulted in the preparation of a first compilation of policies, followed by extensive review and refinement by the Working Group of Experts and consultation with key World Heritage stakeholders. The first phase ended with a Draft Policy Compendium, presented to the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session (2018).

Phase 2

At its 42nd session, the World Heritage Committee requested the World Heritage Centre to explore the feasibility of the Policy Compendium as an online tool (42 COM 11). Therefore, in addition to work on the review and finalization of the Policy Compendium, the World Heritage Centre developed a user-friendly online tool, with the support and advice of the Advisory Bodies and the Working Group of Experts, followed by a consultation with stakeholders.

The Policy Compendium is by force a living-document: new policies will be created in the coming years, so the Policy Compendium Online Tool will be enriched and updated accordingly to reflect new ideas and decisions made by the Convention governing bodies.

Methodological framework and key information about the Compendium

As mentioned, the Policy Compendium is a consolidated source of policy decisions in the framework of the World Heritage Convention. Original sources are the primary base for this exercise, and the extracted paragraphs keep the original wording of the Document or Decision. In the interests of coherence, in certain cases minor changes or additions have been made, and there are identified with square brackets. In order to easily identify the original context of each text, all the extracted paragraphs refer to the original source.

The following hierarchy of texts was established to reflect the nature of the policies included:

  • The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
  • Strategies, policies and declarations on World Heritage adopted by the World Heritage Committee and the General Assembly of States Parties to the 1972 Convention
  • Rules of Procedure
  • The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention
  • Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee and Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly

In addition to the analysis and identification of policies from the above-mentioned sources, and in order to give a more holistic approach, a case law analysis was carried out, based on decisions of the World Heritage Committee concerning the State of Conservation of World Heritage Properties and Nominations. This analysis provides a range of texts containing policies on similar matters that have been included as a source in the Policy Compendium.

For the case law exercise, decisions were selected based on research on themes and possible threats, among other elements. The current state of conservation of specific sites was not a consideration in the selection of decisions to include or not in the draft Policy Compendium: the threshold was that the Committee applied the policy contained in the decisions in a consistent way.

For those paragraphs related to case law, the paragraphs' content is not linked to one single decision, but to different decisions that have had a similar approach to a specific subject. In some cases, the wording could be similar to some particular decisions of a site; however, the text aims to highlight common approaches to general issues promoted by the World Heritage Committee, and not to any issue on a specific site.

In addition to the policy sources above, other relevant standard-setting texts and documents of UNESCO and the United Nations system are listed in the Other Reference Texts section of the Compendium.

The structure of the Policy Compendium is organized around the 5 Strategic Objectives of the Convention - known as the 5Cs -, including Credibility, Conservation, Capacity Building, Communication and Communities, together with a first chapter on General Policies. It is essential to understand that a higher number of references in one or another chapter does not mean any type of hierarchy or consideration about the importance of the theme, but it is just related to the existing references in the consulted documents and decisions made in the framework of the Convention.

The World Heritage Policy Compendium was elaborated thanks to the generous contribution of the Government of Australia.

The World Heritage Policy Compendium On-line tool was developed thanks to the generous contribution of the Government of Korea.

With the Support of