What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The 'Pearl of the Adriatic', situated on the Dalmatian coast, became an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is an official landmark or area that has universal value to humankind and has been placed on the World Heritage List in order to be preserved and protected for future generations. Places as diverse as the Great Wall, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Grand Canyon, and the Galapagos Islands make up the world’s heritage. Since 1972 UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has encouraged the identification, protection and preservation of important cultural and natural locations. As of now there are a a total of 1,121 sites in 167 different States Parties. 

All of the  sites on the list have outstanding and unique significance – culturally or naturally. Cultural heritage refers to monuments, groups of buildings and sites with historical, archaeological, scientific, ethnological or anthropological value. The Statue of Liberty is a cultural example, and so is Machu Picchu. Natural heritage refers to outstanding physical, biological and geological formations, habitats of threatened species of animals and plants and areas with scientific, conservation or aesthetic value. The Great Barrier Reef and East Africa’s Serengeti are natural sites on the list.  

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Great Barrier Reef
Beautiful tropical coral reef with shoal or red coral fish Anthias. Photo credit: Tunatura/Bigstock

Does UNESCO Own the World Heritage Sites?

After a site gets on the list it is not owed or controlled by UNESCO. The State Party still owns the site. There are many benefits to having sites on the list though. The benefits range from help in educating the local population about the preservation of a heritage property, providing emergency assistance to sites that are in immediate danger, help in safeguarding the sites by providing management and technical training and encouraging international cooperation in conservation of our world’s cultural and natural heritage. 

Giza, Egypt
The capital of the Old Kingdom of Egypt has some extraordinary funerary monuments, including rock tombs, ornate mastabas, temples and pyramids. In ancient times, the site was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The World Heritage List reflects the wealth and diversity of the Earth’s cultural and natural heritage. In essence these places belong to everyone because we are all part of humankind. In order for them to be preserved for future generations it is imperative that we all look after their well-being. If everyone everywhere would think of these sites as universal places that have impacted the development of humankind then we could perhaps be one step closer to greater understanding of each other, no matter what country of origin, continent of ancestry, color, race, creed, sexual orientation or otherwise. 



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UNESCO World Heritage Sites Google Map
UNESCO World Heritage Sites Google Map

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