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’.
The World Heritage Convention adopted by UNESCO in 1972 links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. It recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.
[ Learn more about the history of the World Heritage List ]
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. 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. Since 2005, only one set of ten criteria have existed. [ See the ten criteria ]
The World Heritage List includes 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. [ See the interactive map of the properties ]
The World Heritage Committee added 19 sites to the World Heritage List in 2013:
– Cultural properties: Al Zubarah Archaeological Site (Qatar), Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora (Ukraine), Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (Germany), Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (China), Fujisan (Japan), Golestan Palace (Iran), Hill Forts of Rajasthan (India), Historic Centre of Agadez (Niger), Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong (North Korea), Levuka Historical Port Town (Fiji), Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany (Italy), Red Bay Basque Whaling Station (Canada), University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (Portugal), Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region (Poland and Ukraine)
– Natural properties: Namib Sand Sea (Namibia) – pictures above, El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve (Mexico), Mount Etna (Etna), Tajik National Park – Mountains of the Pamirs (Tadjikistan), Xinjiang Tianshan (China).
[ Learn more about the 19 new inscribed properties ]