About World Heritage

from 'About World Heritage' in Unesco World Heritage Centre http://whc.unesco.org/en/about/

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage.

What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

UNESCO's World Heritage mission is to:

  • encourage countries to sign the World Heritage Convention and to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage
  • encourage States Parties to the Convention to nominate sites within their national territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List
  • encourage States Parties to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites
  • help States Parties safeguard World Heritage properties by providing technical assistance and professional training
  • provide emergency assistance for World Heritage sites in immediate danger
  • support States Parties' public awareness-building activities for World Heritage conservation
  • encourage participation of the local population in the preservation of their cultural and natural heritage
  • encourage international cooperation in the conservation of our world's cultural and natural heritage

Cultural and Natural Heritage

There two types of World Heritage: Cultural and Natural.

In Brief, Cultral Heritage and Natural Heritage is defined as follows.

Cultural Heritage: monuments, groups of buildings or sites (including landscape) which are of outstanding universal value form the point of view of history, art or science.

Natural Heritage: natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, geological and physiographical formations, precisely delineated areas for habitat of threatened species of animals and plants or natural sites, of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.

There are also 'mixed sites' which has some elements of both types of heritage.

More detail, see Convention Text

Nominating Process


There are 10 Criteria for Selection, i-vi are for Cultural Heritage and vii-x are for Natural Heritage.

  • 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