World Heritage in the world

In 1978 the World Heritage List was launched and grew in the space of a very short time. Today there are over 1000 places that have world heritage status.

To be included in the World Heritage List, a location must have one (or more) unique, universal values. In all there are 10 criteria that may be taken into account and at least one of these must be met to be considered worthy of world heritage status.

The places in the World Heritage List can be grouped into 3: (1) places of natural importance, (2) places of cultural importance and (3) places of both natural and cultural interest. As of now, 2019, there are 1092 sites worldwide on the list. Most of these are cultural places with over 800 locations; only 38 are regarded as having both natural and cultural significance.

With over 1000 sites on the list, the variation they represent will be great. Many people know about the pyramids in Egypt and the Great Wall of China, but did you know that the birthplace of Jesus is on the list?  Or parts of the historical centre of Liverpool?  Or the Statue of Liberty in New York? The list shows a clear preponderance of names in industrialised, western countries. Europe is especially over-represented.  Italy alone has 51 entries! Measures have been taken to balance it, so that it is truly representative of the whole world.

Many places around the world have “in danger” status. This means that the site is in danger of being lost, or at least that the qualities which make the place unique and give it international and universal value are being lost. Some places are in danger due to external factors such as war, but there are also those that are endangered because of neglect and mismanagement. There are two examples of sites that have forfeited their world heritage status: the "Dresden Elbe valley” and the “Arabian Oryx reservation”. Both of these administered their areas in a manner which was at odds with UNESCO’s guidelines and consequently their world heritage status was lost. This is something all the listed places have to be acutely aware of; the status they have been given entails a responsibility for its upkeep and administration according to the best practices so that nothing is lost, which is important not only for the local community but for the whole world.