The World Heritage List

The World Heritage List

How is a site added to the World Heritage List?

Each state party has its own World Heritage council, which is responsible for submitting to the World Heritage Committee those properties in its territory that meet the requirements for inclusion in the World Heritage List, which is updated every two years.
In addition, UNESCO set up the List of World Heritage in Danger, which includes those properties declared World Heritage that require major conservation works in order to protect them.

What criteria must a property meet in order to be

declared World Heritage?


The convention lays down a series of selection criteria to be taken into account when deciding those properties to be included in the World Heritage List:

Cultural items must:

  • I. represent a masterpiece of human creative genius, or
  • II. display an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, concerning developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design, or
  • III. be and bear unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation that is living or which has disappeared, or
  • IV. be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history, or
  • V. be an outstanding example of a traditional human habitat or settlement which is representative of a culture or cultures that are now vulnerable due to the impact of irreversible change, or
  • VI. be directly and tangibly associated with important events or living traditions, ideas or beliefs, or with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.


Other important aspects are:

  • authenticity as regards the design, materials, labour force or setting
  • the conducting of an appropriate evaluation of the state of conservation of the item, which must be carried out by comparing it with the state of similar properties from the same period.

Natural properties must:

  • I. be outstanding examples that represent major stages of the history of the Earth, including the record of evolution, significant ongoing geological processes, the development of landforms or important geomorphic or physiographic features, or
  • II. contain outstanding natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance, or
  • III. contain the most important and most representative natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those habitats that contain endangered species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science and conservation.

Other important criteria are the protection, administration and integrity of the site.


What is the impact of World Heritage status?

The major benefit deriving from World Heritage listing is that the public becomes more aware of the need firstly to preserve the listed site and secondly, as a consequence, to defend all those values that make it outstanding.
World Heritage status also attracts a larger number of visitors to the property. When these visits are planned in accordance with the principles of sustainable tourism, there are benefits for the local economy, which has a knock-on effect on the site.
When a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List, the site managers and the competent authorities undertake to continue their efforts to monitor, preserve and publicise items listed as World Heritage.