UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972)

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage – also known as the World Heritage Convention – was adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at its seventeenth session on 16 November 1972. It is the single most important international instrument for the protection of our cultural and natural heritage. To date, 190 countries have ratified the Convention, including Germany in 1976.

UNESCO World Heritage Cinque Terre in Italy © B. Engels
UNESCO World Heritage Cinque Terre in Italy © B. Engels

Protect and Preserve What is Unique

According to its Preamble, the Convention’s guiding principle is “that parts of the cultural or natural heritage are of outstanding interest and therefore need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole”. Natural World Heritage thus denotes unique natural phenomena, while Cultural World Heritage denotes superlative achievements in human culture. By signing the Convention, States Parties pledge to protect the cultural and natural heritage situated on their territories and preserve it for future generations. The most important instrument established under the Convention is the UNESCO World Heritage List, in which unique natural features, geological formations, cultural landscapes and cultural properties of outstanding worldwide significance are inscribed. The main criteria for inclusion in the World Heritage List are the properties’ outstanding universal value, integrity and assurance of the protection of the properties in question. States Parties applying for the inscription of appropriate properties located within their borders thus recognise the worldwide significance of these properties and undertake to conserve them. World Heritage properties which are particularly at risk are put on the “List of World Heritage in Danger”. Measures which are essential for the conservation and protection of these properties may be financed with assistance from the World Heritage Fund.

The World Heritage List

The World Heritage List currently includes 1092 properties in 167 countries, of which 845 are cultural, 209 are natural and 38 are mixed properties forming part of both the cultural and the natural heritage. 54 properties are included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, including  the Old City of Jerusalem (as at Juli 2018).

Further information

Official website of the World Heritage Convention
UNESCO World Heritage in Germany
UNESCO Germany
German World Heritage Foundation
Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention