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World Heritage: Natural and Cultural
Jun 19, 2014

These sites are places of importance of cultural or natural heritage as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is an international agreement that was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972.

  • It is based on the premise that certain places on Earth are of outstanding universal value and should therefore form part of the common heritage of mankind. 

  • The countries that ratify the Convention (States Parties) have become part of an international community, united in a common mission to identify and safeguard our world's most outstanding natural and cultural heritage. 

  • While fully respecting the national sovereignty, and without prejudice to property rights provided by national legislation, the States Parties recognize that the protection of the World Heritage is the duty of the international community as a whole.


World heritage criteria :


To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. Until the end of 2004, World Heritage sites were selected on the basis of six cultural and four natural criteria. With the adoption of the revised Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, only one set of ten criteria exists.


Definition of Cultural heritage :


For the purposes of the World Heritage Convention, the following are 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.


Definition of Natural heritage :

For the purposes of the World Heritage Convention, the following are 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.


Selection criteria :


For a property to be included on the World Heritage List, the World Heritage Committee must find that it meets one or more of the following criteria:

i. To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;

ii. To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;


iii. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;


iv. To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;


v. To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;


vi. To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);


vii. To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;


viii. To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;


ix. To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;


x. To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.

The benefits of being listed :


Inscription of a property on the World Heritage List can produce many benefits for countries, and in particular, for local communities.

  • It can increase tourist visitation from overseas and within a country.

  • Local communities benefit from possible increase in employment opportunities and income, as well as improved planning and management of the region. 

  • World Heritage listing also promotes local and national pride in the property and develops feelings of national responsibility to protect the area.

World Heritage List Nominations :

Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, pledging to protect their natural and cultural heritage, can submit nomination proposals for properties on their territory to be considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.


Nomination Process:

  1. Tentative List: The first step a country must take is to make an ‘inventory' of its important natural and cultural heritage sites located within its boundaries. This ‘inventory' is known as the Tentative List, and provides a forecast of the properties that a State Party may decide to submit for inscription in the next five to ten years and which may be updated at any time. It is an important step since the World Heritage Committee cannot consider a nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List unless the property has already been included on the State Party's Tentative List.

  2. The Nomination file: By preparing a Tentative List and selecting sites from it, a State Party can plan when to present a nomination file. The World Heritage Centre offers advice and assistance to the State Party in preparing this file, which needs to be as exhaustive as possible, making sure the necessary documentation and maps are included. The nomination is submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review and to check it is complete. Once a nomination file is complete the World Heritage Centre sends it to the appropriate Advisory Bodies for evaluation.

  3. The Advisory Bodies : A nominated property is independently evaluated by two Advisory Bodies mandated by the World Heritage Convention: the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which respectively provide the World Heritage Committee with evaluations of the cultural and natural sites nominated. The third Advisory Body is the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), an intergovernmental organization which provides the Committee with expert advice on conservation of cultural sites, as well as on training activities.

  4. The World Heritage Committee: Once a site has been nominated and evaluated, it is up to the intergovernmental World Heritage Committee to make the final decision on its inscription. Once a year, the Committee meets to decide which sites will be inscribed on the World Heritage List. It can also defer its decision and request further information on sites from the States Parties.

  5. The Criteria for Selection: To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage. The criteria are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself. Until the end of 2004, World Heritage sites were selected on the basis of six cultural and four natural criteria. With the adoption of the revised Operational Guidelines, only one set of ten criteria exists.

 

 


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