The programme catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The programme was founded 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. Since then, 185 states have ratified the convention.
As of 2008, 878 sites are listed: 678 cultural, 174 natural, and 26 mixed properties, in 145 states. Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites to date with 43 sites inscribed to the list. UNESCO references each World Heritage Site with an identification number; but new inscriptions often include previous sites now listed as part of larger descriptions. As a result, the identification numbers exceed 1200 even though there are fewer on the list.
Each World Heritage Site is the property of the state on whose territory the site is located, but it is considered in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
The cost of the project was US$80 million, about $40 million of which was collected from 50 countries. The project was regarded as a success, and led to other safeguarding campaigns, saving Venice and its lagoon in Italy, the ruins of Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan, and the Borobodur Temple Compounds in Indonesia. UNESCO then initiated, with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a draft convention to protect the common cultural heritage of humanity.
A single text was agreed on by all parties, and the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.
At this point, the file is evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union. These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee. The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List, and sometimes defers the decision to request more information from the states. There are ten selection criteria - a site must meet at least one of them to be included on the list.
The UNESCO geographic zones also give greater emphasis on administrative, rather than geographic associations. Hence, Gough Island, located in the South Atlantic, is part of the Europe & North America region since it was the government of the United Kingdom which nominated the site.
The table below includes a breakdown of the sites according to these zones and their classification:
|Zone||Natural||Cultural||Mixed||Total||%||State Party with inscribed properties|
| Europe & North America|
(including Israel & Russia)
|Latin America & Caribbean||35||82||3||120||14%||25|
The annual session takes place in cities all over the world. With the exception of those held in Paris, where the UNESCO headquarter office is located, only state parties who are members of the World Heritage Committee have the right to host a future Session, pending approval by the Committee, as well as provided that the concerned State Party’s term will not expire before it hosts the Session.
|Session||Year||Date||Host city||State party|
|1||1977||27 June–1 July||Paris|
|2||1978||5 September–8 September||Washington, D.C.|
|3||1979||22 October–26 October||Cairo & Luxor|
|4||1980||1 September–5 September||Paris|
|5||1981||26 October–30 October||Sydney|
|6||1982||13 December–17 December||Paris|
|7||1983||5 December–9 December||Florence|
|8||1984||29 October–2 November||Buenos Aires|
|9||1985||2 December–6 December||Istanbul|
|10||1986||24 November–28 November||Paris|
|11||1987||7 December–11 December||Paris|
|12||1988||5 December–9 December||Brasilia|
|13||1989||11 December–15 December||Paris|
|14||1990||7 December–12 December||Banff|
|15||1991||9 December–13 December||Carthage|
|16||1992||7 December–14 December||Santa Fe|
|17||1993||6 December–11 December||Cartagena|
|18||1994||12 December–17 December||Phuket|
|19||1995||4 December–9 December||Berlin|
|20||1996||2 December–7 December||Mérida|
|21||1997||1 December–6 December||Naples|
|22||1998||30 November–5 December||Kyoto|
|23||1999||29 November–4 December||Marrakesh|
|24||2000||27 November–2 December||Cairns|
|25||2001||11 December–16 December||Helsinki|
|26||2002||24 June–29 June||Budapest|
|27||2003||30 June–5 July||Paris|
|28||2004||28 June–7 July||Suzhou|
|29||2005||10 July–17 July||Durban|
|30||2006||8 July–16 July||Vilnius|
|31||2007||23 June–1 July||Christchurch|
|32||2008||2 July-10 July||Quebec City|