UNESCO World Heritage Sites: A Challenge

“Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to the future generations.” UNESCO (2008)

UNESCO which stands for United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has created a list of 911 properties across the globe that represent important sites of the earths human and natural heritage. This list is made up of 704 cultural, 180 natural, and 27 mixed sites spread across the globe.

Image is a snapshot of the interactive map of these sites which can be found on the UNESCO World Heritage website: here.

“For over thirty years, UNESCO has been working with countries around the world to identify World Heritage sites and ensure their safekeeping for future generations. Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage. Over 750 cultural, natural and mixed sites have been inscribed on the World Heritage List. Their splendour enriches our lives and illustrates the diversity of our planet and its inhabitants. They are ours to share, to cherish and to respect. And their disappearance would be an irreparable loss to humanity.
Now more than ever, our World Heritage is our shared heritage.” The World Heritage Brochure (2004) UNESCO.

The World Heritage programme was established with the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on November 16, 1972. The Convetion has bee ratified by 186 state parties have ratified the convention.

To be included in the World Heritage list, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria:

(i)    represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
(ii)    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)    bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
(iv)    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)    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 espe- cially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
(vi)    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) contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
(viii) 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)    be outstanding examples representing signifi- cant 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)    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.

The World Heritage programme is not only about simply raising awareness of these important sites but to try and ensure these sites are protected and preserved.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Well, I like a challenge. I like to explore. I like to take photographs. I am fascinated by the world we live in (even if it is a pretty destructive and cruel place at times). My intention is to visit as many of these World Heritage sites as possible during my lifetime. Now, I recognise that this is a challenge that will probably never be fully completed but I intend to have a lot of fun trying. I have visited a good number of the sites already. In a post to follow shortly I will list the sites I have visited and post a few photographs from said sites. The idea is that I learn about the world as I go along. Good to keep the brain cells active.

That’s it for now. If you want to learn more about the UNESCO World Heritage programme there is an endless amount of information on the UNESCO World Heritage website which can be found at: http://whc.unesco.org/

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