“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.’
– Taken from the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) website on 22nd May 2012.
An international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by UNESCO in 1972. Through this treaty, UNESCO seeks to facilitate and encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This encompasses many things from a forest, mountain, lake, desert, to a monument, building, complex, or city. UNESCO breaks down what it considers a world heritage site into two categories: cultural heritage and natural heritage. Cultural heritage includes monuments, which encompasses architectural sites, cave dwellings, and other archaeological structures.Natural heritage includes naturally occurring features which are unique and/or scientifically important, as well as geographical features which are habitats that are home to species that may be endangered or natural sites which don’t occur elsewhere. However, not every place can make this exclusive world heritage sites list. To be considered for the list, a country must first take an inventory of its significant cultural and natural properties, placing them on what is called the Tentative List. A property is then chosen to be place into a nomination file and at this point, the 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 the decision to request more information from the country who nominated the site. There are ten selection criteria – a site must meet at least one of them to be included on the list. Therefore sometimes it can take up to years for a property to be nominated and eventually chosen.
Once chosen, the property is then inscribed onto the World Heritage List and is 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. Over the next three weeks, we will be taking a look at some of the most amazingly beautiful places from all over the world that have made it onto the World Heritage List so be sure to keep an eye out and check back often!