UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, seeks to identify and ensure preservation of sites around the world that have outstanding cultural and natural value for current and future generations to come, but how do they choose which sites make up our world’s heritage?
Nomination for UNESCO World Heritage Site
Before a site can even be considered to be a World Heritage Site, it must be nominated. In order to nominate a location, the country must be a signatory member of the World Heritage Convention. Once a site is nominated, it is forwarded to the Advisory Bodies for review, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Together, these agencies provide the World Heritage Committee with recommendations on the nominated sites.
After evaluation by the Advisory Bodies, the intergovernmental World Heritage Committee meets yearly to discuss which sites should be added as World Heritage Sites. During the annual session, the committee discusses whether the nominations meet applicable selection criteria.
World Heritage Site Selection Criteria
A site needs to be of outstanding value and also meet at least one of the following ten criteria:
(i) to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
(ii) 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;
(iii) to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
(iv) to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
(v) 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;
(vi) 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);
(vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
(viii) 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;
(ix) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
(x) 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.
Although a location may become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is not guaranteed to remain one forever. If a site fails to preserve its outstanding universal value, it may be deleted from the list, serving as an example on the importance of preserving our world heritage.