World Heritage Convention and the concept of World Heritage

In the 1960s, construction of the Aswan Dam in the Nile Valley put the famous ancient Egyptian temple complex of Abu Simbel under threat. In an unprecedented global campaign, UNESCO called for the monument to be preserved. It was saved thanks to the willingness of the international community to come together to protect and preserve the temple. This experience lead to the formulation of a guiding principle: “Parts of the cultural or natural heritage are of outstanding interest and therefore need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.” This has been enshrined in the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the World Heritage Convention. 

The international Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention) was adopted in 1972. Its aim is to preserve globally unique cultural and natural properties of outstanding universal value as the world heritage of mankind as a whole.

The World Heritage Convention, signed by 194 countries to date, is the most internationally important and most successful instrument for the protection of cultural and natural heritage ever agreed by the international community. The sites are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which currently includes 1,154 natural and cultural sites worldwide (as of October 2021).

UNESCO World Heritage ‒ What is it? Explainer animation about the idea of world heritage and natural heritage