WORLD HERITAGE SITES
The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1972 and ratified by the UK in 1984. As at July 2017, 193 states were party to the convention. The convention provides for the identification, protection and conservation of cultural and natural sites of outstanding universal value.
Cultural sites may be:
•an extraordinary exponent of human creative genius
•sites representing architectural and technological innovation or cultural interchange
•sites of artistic, historic, aesthetic, archaeological, scientific, ethnologic or anthropologic value
•'cultural landscapes', ie sites whose characteristics are marked by significant interactions between human populations and their natural environment
•exceptional examples of a traditional settlement or land- or sea-use, especially those threatened by irreversible changes.
•unique or exceptional examples of a cultural tradition or a civilisation either still present or extinct
Natural sites may be:
•those displaying critical periods of earth's history
•superlative examples of on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution of ecosystems
•those exhibiting remarkable natural beauty and aesthetic significance or those where extraordinary natural phenomena are witnessed
•the habitat of threatened species and plants
Governments which are party to the convention nominate sites in their country for inclusion in the World Heritage List. Nominations are considered by the World Heritage Committee, an inter-governmental committee composed of 21 representatives of the parties to the convention. The committee is advised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). ICOMOS evaluates and reports on proposed cultural and mixed sites, ICCROM provides expert advice and training on how to conserve and restore cultural property and IUCN provides technical evaluations of natural heritage sites and reports on the state of conservation of listed sites.
A prerequisite for inclusion in the World Heritage List is the existence of an effective legal protection system in the country in which the site is situated and a detailed management plan to ensure the conservation of the site. Inclusion in the list does not confer any greater degree of protection on the site than that offered by the national protection framework.
If a site is considered to be in serious danger of decay or damage, the committee may add it to the World Heritage in Danger List. Sites on this list may benefit from particular attention or emergency measures to allay threats and allow them to retain their world heritage status, or in extreme cases of damage or neglect they may lose their world heritage status completely. As at July 2017, there were 54 sites on the World Heritage in Danger List, the two most recent additions being the historic centre of Vienna and the Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town in Palestine.
Financial support for the conservation of sites on the World Heritage List is provided by the World Heritage Fund, administered by the World Heritage Committee. The fund’s income is derived from compulsory and voluntary contributions from the states party to the convention and from private donations.
WORLD HERITAGE CENTRE, UNESCO, 7 Place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France E W whc.unesco.org