Type of entity
Authorized form of name
World Heritage Convention
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
In 1959, UNESCO launched an international safeguarding campaign to save the Abu Simbel and Philae temples which were in danger of being flooded and destroyed as the result of the building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. The success of the campaign, which involved donations from over 50 countries, led to other safeguarding campaigns and eventually the preparation of a draft convention on the protection of cultural heritage with the help of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
On 16 November 1972, the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the 17th General Conference of UNESCO. The Convention joined together the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties, and recognized the need to preserve the balance between the two. The idea of combining the conservation of cultural and natural heritage came from a 1965 conference in the United Sates of America which called for a "World Heritage Trust" and similar proposals made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1968. In 1975, the World Heritage Convention formally came into force after its ratification by the first 20 State Parties. The same year, the List of World Heritage in Danger and the World Heritage Fund were established.
In 1978, the World Heritage Committee developed the selection criteria for inscribing properties on the World Heritage List and created the Operation Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. In 1992, the Operational Guidelines were amended to include the category of “cultural landscapes,” which was a step in recognizing indigenous values as they relate to landscapes. In 1994, the Committee also adopted the Global Strategy for a Balanced, Representative, and Credible World Heritage List in order to address imbalances in the list, including the regions and periods represented.
On the 30th anniversary of the Convention in 2002, the Committee adopted the Budapest Declaration on World Heritage and four key Strategic Objectives: Credibility, Conservation, Capacity-building, and Communication. In 2007, these objectives were expanded to include a fifth “C” - Community.
In 2018, The Warsaw Recommendation on Recovery and Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage was developed as guidelines for the recovery and reconstruction of cultural heritage sites in cases of armed conflict or natural disasters.
Functions, occupations and activities
The Convention provides the selection guidelines for the kinds of natural or cultural properties that can be inscribed on the World Heritage List. It stipulates the duties of State Parties in identifying, protecting, and preserving the properties, and obligates State Parties to provide regular reports on the state of conservation of their properties to the World Heritage Committee. The Convention also defines when international financial assistance may be given, and how the World Heritage Fund is to be used and managed.
Mandates/sources of authority
Adoption of the Convention by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.
Ratification of the Convention in 1975.
The World Heritage Committee, which first met in 1977 in Paris, France, is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It manages the World Heritage Fund, allocates financial assistance, determines which properties are inscribed on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger, and ensures that properties are properly taken care of by examining the reports by State Parties on the state of conservation of their properties.
The World Heritage Committee consists of representatives from 21 State Parties who are elected by the General Assembly. The term limit for a Committee member is six years, although most countries choose to be on the Committee for only four years. The Bureau of the World Heritage Committee is responsible for coordinating the Committee’s work and consists of seven State Parties elected by the Committee every year. The General Assembly meets every two years.
The World Heritage Centre, established in 1992, manages all day-to-day matters related to World Heritage within UNESCO. The Centre organizes World Heritage Committee sessions, advises State Parties on their site nominations, organizes international assistance and emergency action, coordinates reports on the condition of sites, and provides education on World Heritage by offering workshops, seminars, teaching materials, and public updates on World Heritage issues.
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Added by Joanne Feng
25 October 2022
The World Heritage Committee webpage, UNESCO.
The World Heritage Centre webpage, UNESCO.
UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Paris, 16 November 1972.
World Heritage, No. 62, February 2012.
World Heritage, No. 101, January 2022.