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World Heritage
POLICY COMPENDIUM

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2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

Paragraph 49

“Outstanding Universal Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole. The Committee defines the criteria for the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List.”

Theme:  2.2.1 - Outstanding Universal Value: definition and attributes
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

Paragraph 78

“To be deemed of Outstanding Universal Value, a property must also meet the conditions of integrity and/or authenticity and must have an adequate protection and management system to ensure its safeguarding.”

Theme:  2.2.1 - Outstanding Universal Value: definition and attributes
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

3. "[The World Heritage Committee], conscious that outstanding universal value is a concept that shall embrace all cultures, regions and peoples, and does not ignore differing cultural interpretations of outstanding universal value because they originate from minorities, indigenous groups and/or local peoples,

4. Recognises that the identification of outstanding universal value on the basis of the established criteria needs to be analysed also in their cultural and natural context, and that in some instances, the tangible and intangible interpretations cannot be separated."

Theme:  2.2.1 - Outstanding Universal Value: definition and attributes
Decision:  30 COM 9

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

9. "[The World Heritage Committee] reinforces the rigorous, objective and consistent application of the three key tests to determine Outstanding Universal Value as set out in the Operational Guidelines:

a) the property must meet one or more of the 10 criteria (Paragraph 77);

b) the property must meet the conditions of integrity and/or authenticity (Paragraphs 79/95); and

c) the property must have an adequate protection and management system in place to ensure its safeguarding (Paragraph 78)."

Theme:  2.2.1 - Outstanding Universal Value: definition and attributes
Decision:  32 COM 9

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

3. "[The World Heritage Committee considers that], in compliance with the Convention and the Operational Guidelines, Outstanding Universal Value is recognised at the time of inscription of a property on the World Heritage List and that no recognition of Outstanding Universal Value is foreseen prior to this stage (…)."

Theme:  2.2.1 - Outstanding Universal Value: definition and attributes
Decision:  42 COM 8

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

5. "[The World Heritage Committee] Also recalling that the Operational Guidelines set out the conditions for inscription on the World Heritage List, strongly reiterates that only meeting criteria is not enough to warrant inscription, as to be deemed of Outstanding Universal Value a site must also meet the conditions of integrity (and authenticity) and must have an adequate protection and management system to ensure its safeguarding, as outlined in paragraph 78 of the Operational Guidelines;"
Theme:  2.2.1 - Outstanding Universal Value: definition and attributes
Decision:  43 COM 8

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 99

“The delineation of boundaries is an essential requirement in the establishment of effective protection of nominated properties. Boundaries should be drawn to incorporate all the attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value and to ensure the integrity and/or authenticity of the property.”

Theme:  2.2.6.1 - Boundaries
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 100

“For properties nominated under criteria (i) - (vi), boundaries should be drawn to include all those areas and attributes which are a direct tangible expression of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, as well as those areas which in the light of future research possibilities offer potential to contribute to and enhance such understanding.”

Theme:  2.2.6.1 - Boundaries
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 101

“For properties nominated under criteria (vii) - (x), boundaries should reflect the spatial requirements of habitats, species, processes or phenomena that provide the basis for their inscription on the World Heritage List. The boundaries should include sufficient areas immediately adjacent to the area of Outstanding Universal Value in order to protect the property's heritage values from direct effect of human encroachments and impacts of resource use outside of the nominated area.”

Theme:  2.2.6.1 - Boundaries
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 102

“The boundaries of the nominated property may coincide with one or more existing or proposed protected areas, such as national parks or nature reserves, biosphere reserves or protected cultural or historic districts or other areas and territories. While such established areas for protection may contain several management zones, only some of those zones may satisfy requirements for inscription.”

Theme:  2.2.6.1 - Boundaries
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

7. "[The World Heritage Committee] considers that modifications to boundaries of World Heritage properties that are related to mining activities should be considered through the procedure for significant modifications of boundaries, in accordance with paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines, given the potential impact of such projects on Outstanding Universal Value."
Theme:  2.2.6.1 - Boundaries
Decision:  35 COM 8B.46

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

"21. [The World Heritage Committee] (u)rges States Parties, with the support of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to:
a) Incorporate well-designed buffer zones based on a holistic understanding of natural as well as human induced factors affecting the property, supported by reinforcing relevant legal, policy, awareness and incentive mechanisms, into new nominations and where appropriate into existing properties to ensure enhanced protection of World Heritage properties,
b) Place particular emphasis on strategic environmental assessment and impact assessments for potential projects within buffer zones to avoid, negative impacts on OUV from developments and activities in these zones,
c) Develop buffer zone protection and management regimes that optimize the capture and sharing of benefits to communities to support the aspirations of the 2015 Policy for the integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the processes of the World Heritage Convention,
d) Ensure buffer zones are supported by appropriate protection and management regimes in line with the property’s OUV, that build connectivity with the wider setting in cultural, environmental and landscape terms."
Theme:  2.2.6.2 - Buffer Zones
Decision:  44 COM 7.2

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 103

“Wherever necessary for the proper protection of the property, an adequate buffer zone should be provided.”

Theme:  2.2.6.2 - Buffer Zones
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 104

“For the purposes of effective protection of the nominated property, a buffer zone is an area surrounding the nominated property which has complementary legal and/or customary restrictions placed on its use and development to give an added layer of protection to the property. This should include the immediate setting of the nominated property, important views and other areas or attributes that are functionally important as a support to the property and its protection. The area constituting the buffer zone should be determined in each case through appropriate mechanisms. Details on the size, characteristics and authorized uses of a buffer zone, as well as a map indicating the precise boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, should be provided in the nomination.”

Theme:  2.2.6.2 - Buffer Zones
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 105

“A clear explanation of how the buffer zone protects the property should also be provided.”

Theme:  2.2.6.2 - Buffer Zones
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 106

“Where no buffer zone is proposed, the nomination should include a statement as to why a buffer zone is not required.”

Theme:  2.2.6.2 - Buffer Zones
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.2 - Outstanding Universal Value

2.2.6 - Boundaries and buffer zones

Paragraph 107

“Although buffer zones are not part of the nominated property, any modifications to or creation of buffer zones subsequent to inscription of a property on the World Heritage List should be approved by the World Heritage Committee using the procedure for a minor boundary modification (see paragraph 164 and Annex 11). The creation of buffer zones subsequent to inscription is normally considered to be a minor boundary modification.”

Theme:  2.2.6.2 - Buffer Zones
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

Paragraph 122

"122. The Preliminary Assessment is a mandatory desk-based process for all sites that may be nominated to the World Heritage List and is undertaken following a request by the relevant State(s) Party(ies). Information included in the Preliminary Assessment request should build on the information provided in the Tentative List and also on any Upstream Process advice and/or Preparatory Assistance and its outcome must be provided at least one year before a full nomination dossier can be submitted by the State(s) Party(ies).

In particular:

a) The Preliminary Assessment provides States Parties with an opportunity for enhanced dialogue with the Advisory Bodies, and it will help to establish the feasibility of a potential nomination and avoid the use of resources in the preparation of nominations that may be unlikely to succeed. 

b) The Preliminary Assessment provides guidance on the potential of a site to justify Outstanding Universal Value, including integrity and/or authenticity, and, if information is provided, on the requirements for protection and management. The decision to prepare a full nomination dossier, regardless of the outcome of the Preliminary Assessment, will rest with the concerned State(s) Party(ies).

c) States Parties shall submit their Preliminary Assessment request to the World Heritage Centre according to the timetable set in paragraph 168, and using the standard format provided in Annex 3. The request shall be submitted in English or French, in paper and electronic formats (Word and/or PDF format) and in the required number of printed copies (same as for nomination dossiers): 2 identical copies for cultural and natural sites, and 3 identical copies for mixed sites and cultural landscapes.

d) On receipt of Preliminary Assessment requests from States Parties, the Secretariat will acknowledge receipt, check for completeness (in compliance with Annex 3) and register them. The Secretariat will forward, according to the timetable set in paragraph 168, complete Preliminary Assessment requests to the relevant Advisory Body(ies) for desk review. If necessary, the Advisory Body(ies) will request any additional information from the State(s) Party(ies), which should be submitted to the Secretariat. From the commencement of the Preliminary Assessment, the Advisory Body(ies) will initiate a dialogue with the concerned State(s) Party(ies) to establish a point of contact and agree on the process of exchange. States Parties are encouraged to appoint a technical focal point to ensure that dialogue is effective throughout the process, and to ensure that the conclusions of the Preliminary Assessment are communicated to the relevant stakeholders.

e) The Preliminary Assessment will be undertaken by ICOMOS and IUCN on a joint basis whenever relevant, and will be an independent desk review, which will include consultation with expert reviewers.  No mission to the site will be undertaken (see Annex 6). Based on available information, the conclusions of the assessment will include an indication of whether the site may have potential to justify Outstanding Universal Value. If so, specific guidance and advice, in the form of recommendations, will be provided to assist the State(s) Party(ies) in the development of the nomination dossier. The Preliminary Assessment Report by the Advisory Bodies shall be provided to the State(s) Party(ies) via the Secretariat in one of the two working languages of the Convention. 

f) The Preliminary Assessment Report by the Advisory Bodies is relevant for up to 5 years. A new Preliminary Assessment is required if a nomination is not submitted by 1 February on the fifth year following the transmission of the Report to the concerned State(s) Party(ies). 

g) A State Party may withdraw a Preliminary Assessment request it has submitted, at any time.  In such circumstances, any further consideration of a possible nomination will need to be subject to a new request for a Preliminary Assessment.

h) At each session of the World Heritage Committee, the Secretariat will provide a list of Preliminary Assessments requests received and those undertaken, but will not indicate the guidance given by the Advisory Bodies to the concerned State(s) Party(ies) in a completed Preliminary Assessment. However, once a nomination is submitted, the related Preliminary Assessment Report shall be annexed to it.

i) Both Upstream Process and Preliminary Assessment imply guidance at an early stage, prior to the preparation of a nomination, however they are different mechanisms. The Upstream Process is not mandatory. The Preliminary Assessment is a mandatory phase possibly allowing access to the preparation of a nomination dossier. Within an Upstream Process a visit to the site may be possible, while the Preliminary Assessment is carried out exclusively on the basis of a desk review.  The Upstream Process may provide general advice, in relation to revision of a Tentative List, while the Preliminary Assessment is undertaken on a single site (whether serial or not) already included on a State Party’s Tentative List. While in general the costs of Upstream Process requests are borne by the requesting State(s) Party(ies), the costs of Preliminary Assessments, being part of the nomination process, are included in the related evaluation process (see also Paragraph 168bis). In terms of sequence, Upstream Process advice should precede the Preliminary Assessment."
Theme:  2.4 - Upstream Process
Source:  WHC.21/01 Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.21/01 2021)

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

4. "[The World Heritage Committee] (…) recalls that, in order to be effective, the upstream support should ideally take place at an early stage, preferably at the moment of the preparation or revision of the States Parties’ Tentative Lists."
Theme:  2.4 - Upstream Process
Decision:  41 COM 9A

2 - Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List

2.7 - Types of World Heritage properties

Paragraph 45

"Cultural and natural heritage are defined in Articles 1 and 2 of the World Heritage Convention.

Article 1

For the purposes of this Convention, the following shall be considered as "cultural heritage";

- monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of history, art or science;

- groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of history, art or science;

- sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and of man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of Outstanding Universal Value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view.

Article 2

For the purposes of this Convention, the following shall be considered as "natural heritage":

- natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of Outstanding Universal Value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view;

geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science or conservation;

- natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty."

Theme:  2.7.1 - Cultural, Natural and Mixed Properties
Source:  OG Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (WHC.19/01 - 10 July 2019)
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