Outstanding Universal Value

World Heritage properties must display Outstanding Universal Value, which is the basis of any nomination. According to UNESCO, “Outstanding Universal Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to the international community as a whole.” In order to be considered of Outstanding Universal Value, a property must meet one or more World Heritage Criteria.

For cultural sites, the following six criteria can apply:

Gate to Robben Island

Robben Island World Heritage Site, Table Bay, South Africa

(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)

Photo by National Park Service

Mission Espada, part of the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site, Texas
Photo by National Park Service