A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.
To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area). It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
The sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity, which otherwise would be subject to risk from human or animal trespassing, unmonitored/uncontrolled/unrestricted access, or threat from local administrative negligence. Sites are demarcated by UNESCO as protected zones. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Program administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 "states parties" that are elected by their General Assembly.
The programme catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common culture and heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The program began with the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since then, 193 state parties have ratified the convention, making it one of the most widely recognized international agreements and the world's most popular cultural program.
As of July 2018, a total of 1,092 World Heritage Sites (845 cultural, 209 natural, and 38 mixed properties) exist across 167 countries. Italy, with 54 sites, has the most of any country, followed by China (53), Spain (47), France (44), Germany (44), India (37), and Mexico (35).
|Convention concerning the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage|
|Signed||16 November 1972|
|Effective||17 December 1975|
|Ratifiers||193 (189 UN member states plus the Cook Islands, the Holy See, Niue, and Palestine)|
|Depositary||Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization|
|Languages||Arabic, English, French, Russian, and Spanish|
In 1954, the government of Egypt decided to build the new Aswan High Dam, whose resulting future reservoir would eventually inundate a large stretch of the Nile valley containing cultural treasures of ancient Egypt and ancient Nubia. In 1959, the governments of Egypt and Sudan requested UNESCO to assist their countries to protect and rescue the endangered monuments and sites. In 1960, the Director-General of UNESCO launched an appeal to the member states for an International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia. This appeal resulted in the excavation and recording of hundreds of sites, the recovery of thousands of objects, as well as the salvage and relocation to higher ground of a number of important temples, the most famous of which are the temple complexes of Abu Simbel and Philae. The campaign, which ended in 1980, was considered a success. As tokens of its gratitude to countries which especially contributed to the campaign's success, Egypt donated four temples: the Temple of Dendur was moved to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Temple of Debod was moved to the Parque del Oeste in Madrid, the Temple of Taffeh was moved to the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in the Netherlands, and the Temple of Ellesyia to Museo Egizio in Turin.
The project cost $80 million, about $40 million of which was collected from 50 countries. The project's success led to other safeguarding campaigns: saving Venice and its lagoon in Italy, the ruins of Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan, and the Borobodur Temple Compounds in Indonesia. UNESCO then initiated, with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a draft convention to protect the common cultural heritage of humanity.
The United States initiated the idea of cultural conservation with nature conservation. The White House conference in 1965 called for a "World Heritage Trust" to preserve "the world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry". The International Union for Conservation of Nature developed similar proposals in 1968, and they were presented in 1972 to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. Under the World Heritage Committee, signatory countries are required to produce and submit periodic data reporting providing the World Heritage Committee with an overview of each participating nation's implementation of the World Heritage Convention and a "snapshot" of current conditions at World Heritage properties.
A single text was agreed on by all parties, and the "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage" was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.
The Convention came into force on 17 December 1975. As of May 2017, it has been ratified by 193 states parties, including 189 UN member states plus the Cook Islands, the Holy See, Niue, and the State of Palestine. Only four UN member states have not ratified the Convention: Liechtenstein, Nauru, Somalia and Tuvalu.
A country must first list its significant cultural and natural sites; the result is called the Tentative List. A country may not nominate sites that have not been first included on the Tentative List. Next, it can place sites selected from that list into a Nomination File.
The Nomination File is evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union. These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee. The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List and sometimes defers or refers the decision to request more information from the country which nominated the site. There are ten selection criteria – a site must meet at least one of them to be included on the list.
Up to 2004, there were six criteria for cultural heritage and four criteria for natural heritage. In 2005, this was modified so that there is now only one set of ten criteria. Nominated sites must be of "outstanding universal value" and meet at least one of the ten criteria. These criteria have been modified or/amended several times since their creation.
UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site provides prima facie evidence that such culturally sensitive sites are legally protected pursuant to the Law of War, under the Geneva Convention, its articles, protocols and customs, together with other treaties including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and international law.
Thus, the Geneva Convention treaty promulgates:
"Article 53. PROTECTION OF CULTURAL OBJECTS AND OF PLACES OF WORSHIP. Without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954,' and of other relevant international instruments, it is prohibited:
A country may request to extend or reduce the boundaries, modify the official name, or change the selection criteria of one of its already listed sites. Any proposal for a significant boundary change or modify the site's selection criteria must be submitted as if it were a new nomination, including first placing it on the Tentative List and then onto the Nomination File.
A request for a minor boundary change, one that does not have a significantly impact on the extent of the property or affect its "outstanding universal value", is also evaluated by the advisory bodies before being sent to the Committee. Such proposals can be rejected by either the advisory bodies or the Committee if they judge it to be a significant change instead of a minor one.
Proposals to change the site's official name is sent directly to the Committee.
A site may be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger if there are conditions that threaten the characteristics for which the landmark or area was inscribed on the World Heritage List. Such problems may involve armed conflict and war, natural disasters, pollution, poaching, or uncontrolled urbanization or human development. This danger list is intended to increase international awareness of the threats and to encourage counteractive measures. Threats to a site can be either proven imminent threats or potential dangers that could have adverse effects on a site.
The state of conservation for each site on the danger list is reviewed on a yearly basis, after which the committee may request additional measures, delete the property from the list if the threats have ceased or consider deletion from both the List of World Heritage in Danger and the World Heritage List.
Only two sites have ever been delisted: the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was directly delisted in 2007, instead of first being put on the danger list, after the Omani government decided to reduce the protected area's size by 90 percent. The Dresden Elbe Valley was first placed on the danger list in 2006 when the World Heritage Committee decided that plans to construct the Waldschlösschen Bridge would significantly alter the valley's landscape. In response, Dresden City Council attempted to stop the bridge's construction, but after several court decisions allowed the building of the bridge to proceed, the valley was removed from the World Heritage List in 2009.
The first global assessment to quantitatively measure threats to Natural World Heritage sites found that 63 percent of sites have been damaged by increasing human pressures including encroaching roads, agriculture infrastructure and settlements over the last two decades. These activities endanger Natural World Heritage sites and could compromise their unique values. Of the Natural World Heritage sites that contain forest, 91 percent of those experienced some loss since the year 2000. Many Natural World Heritage sites are more threatened than previously thought and require immediate conservation action.
There are 1092 World Heritage Sites located in 167 states. Of these, 845 are cultural, 209 are natural and 38 are mixed properties. The World Heritage Committee has divided the world into five geographic zones which it calls regions: Africa, Arab states, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Russia and the Caucasus states are classified as European, while Mexico and the Caribbean are classified as belonging to the Latin America & Caribbean zone. The UNESCO geographic zones also give greater emphasis on administrative, rather than geographic associations. Hence, Gough Island, located in the South Atlantic, is part of the Europe & North America region because the government of the United Kingdom nominated the site.
|Zone/region||Cultural||Natural||Mixed||Total||%||State Parties with inscribed properties|
|Asia and the Pacific||181||65||12||258*||23.63%||36|
|Europe and North America||440||63||11||514*||47.07%||50|
|Latin America and the Caribbean||96||38||7||141*||12.91%||28|
*The properties "Uvs Nuur Basin" and "Landscapes of Dauria" (Mongolia, Russian Federation) are trans-regional properties located in Europe and Asia and the Pacific region. They are counted here in the Asia and the Pacific region.
*The property "The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement" (Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Japan, Switzerland) is a trans-regional property with component sites located in three regions - Europe and North America, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. It is counted here in Europe and North America.
Countries with fifteen or more World Heritage Sites, as of July 2018.
Despite the successes of World Heritage listing in promoting conservation, the UNESCO administered project has attracted criticism from some for perceived under-representation of heritage sites outside Europe, disputed decisions on site selection and adverse impact of mass tourism on sites unable to manage rapid growth in visitor numbers.
A sizable lobbying industry has grown around the awards because World Heritage listing has the potential to significantly increase tourism revenue from sites selected. Site listing bids are often lengthy and costly, putting poorer countries at a disadvantage. Eritrea's efforts to promote Asmara are one example.
In 2016, the Australian government was reported to have successfully lobbied for Great Barrier Reef conservation efforts to be removed from a UNESCO report titled 'World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate'. The Australian government's actions were in response to their concern about the negative impact that an 'at risk' label could have on tourism revenue at a previously designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
A number of listed World Heritage locations such as George Town, Penang, and Casco Viejo, Panama, have struggled to strike the balance between the economic benefits of catering to greatly increased visitor numbers and preserving the original culture and local communities that drew the recognition.
The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site is located in the Canadian Rockies. It consists of seven contiguous parks including four national parks:
Yohoand three British Columbia provincial parks:
Hamber Provincial Park
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
Mount Robson Provincial ParkThe parks include mountains, glaciers, and hot springs and the headwaters of major North American river systems including:
North Saskatchewan River
Fraser RiverThe area is known for its natural environment and biological diversity. It includes the Burgess Shale site, a World Heritage Site in its own right from 1980 to 1984, when it was included in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks WHS designation.Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain
Under the name Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain (Cueva de Altamira y arte rupestre paleolítico del Norte de España) are grouped 18 caves of northern Spain, which together represent the apogee of Upper Paleolithic cave art in Europe between 35,000 and 11,000 years ago (Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean, Magdalenian, Azilian).
They have been collectively designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2008.
Chief among these caves is Altamira, located within the town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. It remains one of the most important painting cycles of prehistory, originating in the Magdalenian and Solutrean periods of the Upper Paleolithic. This cave's artistic style represents the Franco-cantabrian school, characterized by the realism of its figural representation. Altamira Cave was declared a World Heritage Site in 1985.
In 2008 the World Heritage Site was expanded to include 17 additional caves located in three autonomous regions of northern Spain: Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country.Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity, also Basilica of the Nativity (Arabic: كَنِيسَةُ ٱلْمَهْد; Greek: Βασιλική της Γεννήσεως; Armenian: Սուրբ Ծննդյան տաճար; Latin: Basilica Nativitatis) is a basilica located in Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank. The grotto it contains holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the birthplace of Jesus. The grotto is the oldest site continuously used as a place of worship in Christianity, and the basilica is the oldest major church in the Holy Land.
The church was originally commissioned in 327 by Constantine the Great and his mother Helena on the site that was traditionally considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. That original basilica was completed sometime between 333 and 339. It was destroyed by fire during the Samaritan revolts of the sixth century, and a new basilica was built in 565 by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who restored the architectural tone of the original.The Church of the Nativity, while remaining basically unchanged since the Justinian reconstruction, has seen numerous repairs and additions, especially from the Crusader period, such as two bell towers (now gone), wall mosaics and paintings (partially preserved). Over the centuries, the surrounding compound has been expanded, and today it covers approximately 12,000 square meters, comprising three different monasteries: one Greek Orthodox, one Armenian Apostolic, and one Roman Catholic, of which the first two contain bell towers built during the modern era.The silver star marking the spot where Christ was born was stolen in 1847. Some assert that this was a contributing factor in the Crimean War against the Russian Empire. Others assert that the war grew out of the wider European situation.The Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage site and was the first to be listed under Palestine by UNESCO. The site is also on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger.A 250-year old understanding among religious communities, the Status Quo, applies to the site.Cradle of Humankind
The Cradle of Humankind is a paleoanthropological site about 50 km (31 mi) northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, in the Gauteng province. Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999, the site currently occupies 47,000 hectares (180 sq mi) and contains a complex of limestone caves. The registered name of the site in the list of World Heritage sites is Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa.
The Sterkfontein Caves were the site of the discovery of a 2.3-million-year-old fossil Australopithecus africanus (nicknamed "Mrs. Ples"), found in 1947 by Robert Broom and John T. Robinson. The find helped corroborate the 1924 discovery of the juvenile Australopithecus africanus skull known as the "Taung Child", by Raymond Dart, at Taung in the North West Province of South Africa, where excavations still continue.
Nearby the site, but not in the site, the Rising Star Cave system contains the Dinaledi Chamber (chamber of stars), in which were discovered fifteen fossil skeletons of an extinct species of hominin, provisionally named Homo naledi.
Sterkfontein alone has produced more than a third of early hominid fossils ever found prior to 2010. The Dinaledi Chamber contains over 1,500 H. naledi fossils, the most extensive discovery of a single hominid species ever found in Africa.Geissenklösterle
Geissenklösterle (Geißenklösterle) is an archaeological site of significance for the central European Upper Paleolithic, located near the town of Blaubeuren in the Swabian Jura in Baden-Württemberg, southern Germany. First explored in 1963, the cave contains traces of early prehistoric art from between 43,000 and 30,000 years ago. In 2017 the site became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura.Gorham's Cave
Gorham's Cave is often mistaken for a natural sea cave, but is in fact a sea level cave, in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. It is considered to be one of the last known habitations of the Neanderthals in Europe. It gives its name to the Gorham's Cave complex, which is a combination of four distinct caves of such importance that they are combined into a UNESCO World Heritage site, the only one in Gibraltar. The three other caves are Vanguard Cave, Hyaena Cave, and Bennett's Cave.It is located on the southeastern face of the Rock of Gibraltar. When first inhabited some 55,000 years ago, it would have been approximately 5 kilometres from the shore, but, due to changes in sea level, it is now only a few metres from the Mediterranean Sea.Göbekli Tepe
Göbekli Tepe (Turkish: [ɟœbecˈli teˈpe], Turkish for "Potbelly Hill") is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft) above sea level.
The tell includes two phases of use, believed to be of a social or ritual nature by site discoverer and excavator Klaus Schmidt, dating back to the 10th–8th millennium BCE. During the first phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected – the world's oldest known megaliths.More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock. In the second phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller and stood in rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime. The site was abandoned after the PPNB. Younger structures date to classical times.
The details of the structure's function remain a mystery. It was partially excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014. In 2018, the site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast of southern England. It stretches from Exmouth in East Devon to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of about 96 miles (154 km), and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in mid-December 2001.The site spans 185 million years of geological history, coastal erosion having exposed an almost continuous sequence of rock formation covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. At different times, this area has been desert, shallow tropical sea and marsh, and the fossilised remains of the various creatures that lived here have been preserved in the rocks.
Natural features seen on this stretch of coast include arches, pinnacles and stack rocks. In some places the sea has broken through resistant rocks to produce coves with restricted entrances, and in one place, the Isle of Portland is connected to the land by a narrow spit. In some parts of the coast, landslides are common. These have exposed a wide range of fossils, the different rock types each having its own typical fauna and flora, thus providing evidence of how animals and plants evolved in this region.
The area around Lulworth Cove contains a fossil forest, and 71 different rock strata have been identified at Lyme Regis, each with its own species of ammonite. The fossil collector Mary Anning lived here and her major discoveries of marine reptiles and other fossils were made at a time when the study of palaeontology was just starting to develop. The Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre provides information on the heritage coast, and the whole length of the site can be visited via the South West Coast Path.Karain Cave
For other uses of Karain, see Karain (disambiguation).
Karain Cave (Turkish: Karain Mağarası) is a Paleolithic archaeological site located at Yağca Village 27 km (17 mi) northwest of Antalya city in the Mediterranean region of Turkey.Khoit Tsenkher Cave Rock Art
The Khoit Tsenkher Cave Rock Paintings are found in Mankhan Sum, Khovd Province, Mongolia.Kotor
Kotor (Montenegrin Cyrillic: Котор, pronounced [kɔ̌tɔr]; Italian: Cattaro) is a coastal town in Montenegro. It is located in a secluded part of the Gulf of Kotor. The city has a population of 13,510 and is the administrative center of Kotor Municipality.
The old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period. It is located on the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska), one of the most indented parts of the Adriatic Sea. Some have called it the southern-most fjord in Europe, but it is a ria, a submerged river canyon. Together with the nearly overhanging limestone cliffs of Orjen and Lovćen, Kotor and its surrounding area form an impressive landscape.
Since the early 2000s Kotor has seen an increase in tourists, many of them coming by cruise ship. Visitors are attracted by the natural environment of the Gulf of Kotor and by the old town of Kotor. Kotor is part of the World Heritage Site dubbed the Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor.
The fortified city of Kotor was also included in UNESCO's World Heritage Site list as part of Venetian Works of Defence between 15th and 17th centuries: Stato da Terra – western Stato da Mar in 2017.List of World Heritage Sites in Cuba
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972. The Caribbean island-nation of Cuba accepted the convention on March 24, 1981, making its historical sites eligible for inclusion on the list; as of 2011, nine sites in Cuba are included.Cuba had its first site included on the list at the 6th Session of World Heritage Committee, held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, in December 1982. At that session, "Old Havana and its Fortifications", a site including the central, historic portion of the Cuban capital of Havana, as well as Spanish colonial fortifications, was inscribed on the list.Cuba's inclusions on the list include a variety of sites. Two sites are selected for their natural significance: Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in the eastern provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo, and Desembarco del Granma National Park, named for the yacht which carried the members of the 26th of July Movement who started the Cuban Revolution. City landscapes include Old Havana, Trinidad, and Camagüey, all founded by early Spanish colonists in the 16th century. The sites also include historical agricultural regions, including the coffee plantations of southeastern Cuba, and the tobacco region of Viñales Valley.List of World Heritage Sites in India
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites are important places of cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972.There are 37 World Heritage Sites located in India. These include 29 cultural sites, seven natural sites and one mixed site. India has the sixth largest number of sites in the world.Mamure Castle
Mamure Castle (Turkish: Mamure kalesi) is a medieval castle in the Anamur District of Mersin Province, Turkey.Ninstints
SG̱ang Gwaay Llanagaay ("Red Cod Island"), commonly known by its English name Ninstints, is a village site of the Haida people and part of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site on Haida Gwaii on the North Coast of British Columbia, Canada.
The village site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Historic Site of Canada, and a National Marine Conservation site.Pyrénées – Mont Perdu World Heritage Site
The Pyrénées – Mont Perdu World Heritage Site (also known as UNESCO Patrimonio Mundial Pirineos – Monte Perdido in Spanish) is a World Heritage site straddling the border between Spain and France in the Pyrenees mountain chain. The summit of Monte Perdido (French: Mont Perdu) is on the Spanish side of the border. The site was designated in 1997 and extended north in 1999 to include the Commune of Gèdre in France.
The site includes two bordering national parks: the entire Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park in Spain and the eastern part of Pyrénées Occidentales National Park in France.
The World Heritage site comprises a total area of 30,639 hectares.Shum Laka
The archaeological site of Shum Laka is the most prominent rockshelter site in the Grasslands region of the Laka Valley, northwest Cameroon. Occupations at this rockshelter date to the Later Stone Age. This region is important to investigations of the development and subsequent diffusion of the Bantu culture. The site of Shum Laka is located approximately 15 kilometers from the town of Bamenda, and it resides on the inner wall of the Bafochu Mbu caldera. The deposits at Shum Laka include each phase of cultural development in the Grasslands.Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites is a UNESCO World Heritage site (WHS) located in Wiltshire, England. The WHS covers two large areas of land separated by nearly 30 miles (48 km), rather than a specific monument or building. The sites were inscribed as co-listings in 1986. Some of the large and well known monuments within the WHS are listed below, but the area also has an exceptionally high density of small-scale archaeological sites, particularly from the prehistoric period. More than 700 individual archaeological features have been identified. There are 160 separate Scheduled Monuments, covering 415 items or features.
Lists of World Heritage Sites