The main instrument established under the Convention is the UNESCO World Heritage List. It lists sites with unique natural features, geological formations, cultural landscapes, and cultural properties of outstanding global significance. Each year, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee assesses applications of a small number of potential new sites for inscription in the World Heritage List.
There are currently over 1,100 World Heritage Sites worldwide. The overwhelming majority are cultural sites, about a fifth are natural sites, and 30 sites are mixed sites (cultural and natural heritage). There is also the "List of World Heritage in Danger".
For a site to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, certain prerequisites must be met. Overarching criteria for the inscription on the World Heritage List are uniqueness, as well as authenticity (historical authenticity) for cultural sites and integrity (wholeness and intactness) for natural sites.
Furthermore, States Parties acknowledge the global significance of a site within their borders when applying for its inscription. In doing so, they commit to its protection and conservation, and to the communication of its values to the public.
West Norwegian Fjords – Natural World Heritage © UNESCO
The Great Wall of China – Cultural World Heritage © UNESCO
Natural World Heritage
Natural World Heritage includes natural formations and natural sites: important ecosystems, testimonies of evolutionary history, natural havens, and protected areas for plants and animals.
The Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Geirangerfjord in Norway, Lake Baikal in Russia, the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, the Serengeti in Tanzania – these are five natural World Heritage Sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Cultural World Heritage
Cultural World Heritage includes superlative achievements in human culture. Cultural sites dominate the World Heritage List, especially in Germany and Europe.
Machu Picchu – mixed World Heritage site © UNESCO
Mount Nimba – List of World Heritage in Danger © UNESCO
Mixed World Heritage
Mixed World Heritage Sites belong to both, natural and cultural heritage.
World Heritage in Danger
Those World Heritage Sites, which are subjected to particular threats, are included on the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’. Measures, which are essential for the conservation and protection of such properties may receive financial assistance from the World Heritage Fund.
Current World Heritage List
Information on the nomination process
Criteria for World Heritage Sites in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention