What is a World Heritage Site?
- A World Heritage Site is a place on earth having a special cultural or physical significance and outstanding universal value to the humanity.
- It may be a building, a city, a complex, a desert, a forest, an island, a lake, a monument, or a mountain.
- They have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.
Listing of World Heritage Sites
- It is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which is based in Paris, France.
- The International World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee establishes the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- The World Heritage Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention (The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage or the World Heritage Convention), defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
- It is composed of 21 state parties which are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
Selection of World Heritage Sites
- The first step towards the listing is the nomination of a site by the respective government of a country.
- The site should have an Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination.
- To determine the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination, there are ten enlisted criteria.
- The proposed nomination must satisfy at least one of these ten criteria.
- The Nomination File is then 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 which nominated the site.
Ten criteria for determining Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)
- To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
- 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.
- To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
- To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stage(s) in human history
- 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
- 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.
- To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
- 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.
- To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
- 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.
Importance of World heritage sites for countries
- When a site is inscribed on the World Heritage List, the resulting prestige often helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation.
- Greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties.
- Getting on the World Heritage List could be a major boon for the nominees, as being deemed of “outstanding universal value” can boost tourist numbers and bring in funding.