What Is World Heritage?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted in 1972 the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage that authorized the inscription of sites to a World Heritage List. Only properties of Outstanding Universal Value that meet at least one of ten strict Criteria as vetted by the World Heritage Committee are inscribed on the World Heritage List. To date 1,073 properties claim that global distinction.

Mission Concepcion at San Antonio, Texas Photo by Travis Witt

Mission Concepcion, San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site, Texas
Photo by Travis Witt

For over 45 years UNESCO has been working with countries around the world to identify World Heritage sites and ensure their safekeeping for future generations. The splendor of these cultural, natural and mixed sites enriches our lives and illustrates the diversity of our planet and its inhabitants. They are ours to share, to cherish and to respect. Their disappearance would be an irreparable loss to humanity. Now, more than ever, our World Heritage is our shared heritage.

Independence Hall Photo by RDSmith

Independence Hall World Heritage Site, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photo by RDSmith

Inscription on the World Heritage List is only a first step towards safeguarding these sites for future generations. Management and preservation efforts are an ongoing process, which involves local communities as well as site managers and national authorities.

To learn more about how the World Heritage program operates, click here for Operating Guidelines.