title: marvellous world: unesco heritage list
world’s beauties: many of us, anxious to find exotic paradises, don’t know that not too far from home there might be one of the marvels of the world …Incredulous? Sceptical? Well, take a look at the UNESCO World Heritage List: from Argentina to Russia, from Portugal to Vietnam, from Australia to Zimbabwe, the world is full of wonders waiting to be discovered… and often they are not very far from us!
brief history: the idea of creating an international movement for protecting cultural properties in different countries emerged after World War I. The event, which aroused particular international concern, was the decision to build the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, which would flood the valley containing the Abu Simbel temples, a treasure of ancient Egyptian civilisation. In 1959, after an appeal from the governments of Egypt and Sudan, UNESCO decided to launch an international safeguarding campaign. Archaeological research in the areas to be flooded was accelerated. Above all, the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were dismantled, moved to dry ground and reassembled. The campaign cost about US$80 million, half of which was donated by some 50 countries, showing the importance of nations sharing responsibility in conserving outstanding cultural properties. Its success led to other safeguarding campaigns, such as those of Venice in Italy and Borobodur in Indonesia to name just two. Subsequently, UNESCO initiated the preparation of a draft Convention on the protection of cultural heritage.
linking culture & nature: the most significant feature of the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is that it links together the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. Nature and culture are considered complementary and cultural identity strongly related to the natural environment in which it develops.
how does it work: the Convention defines the kinds of natural or cultural properties which can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List and that may then have access to international financial assistance. The application for a property to be inscribed on the World Heritage List must come from the country itself and is examined by the World Heritage Committee according to a list of selection criteria. The credibility of the World Heritage List stems from the countries' regular reporting: - on the condition of their properties, - on measures taken to preserve them, and - on their efforts to raise public awareness of their cultural and natural heritage. If a country is not fulfilling its obligations under the Convention, it risks having its properties deleted from the World Heritage List.
facts: in July 2004 the World Heritage List included 788 properties with 611 cultural, 154 natural and 23 mixed properties in 134 States. The list is updated every year at the meeting of the World Heritage Committee.
sites in danger: a variety of dangers due to natural causes or human intervention - looting, war, natural disasters, etc. - are constantly threatening properties inscribed in the World Heritage List. As a result of this, some properties on the World Heritage List have been inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which entitles them to special attention and emergency conservation action. As of July 2004, 35 properties were included in this list.
success stories: armed conflict is a major threat to some properties. Several properties that were damaged in this way have been successfully restored thanks to their inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Here are two examples of successful restorations:
heritage dogwatches: private individuals, non-governmental organisations, or other groups may draw the World Heritage Committee's attention to existing threats. In other world, everybody can be part of the World marvels dogwatch!