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UNESCO World Heritage Centre - The Criteria for Selection

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The Criteria for Selection

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria.

These criteria are explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention which, besides the text of the Convention, is the main working tool on World Heritage. The criteria are regularly revised by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the World Heritage concept itself.

Until the end of 2004, World Heritage sites were selected on the basis of six cultural and four natural criteria. With the adoption of the revised Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, only one set of ten criteria exists.

Selection criteria

(i)

to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;

(ii)

to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

(iii)

to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

(iv)

to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;

(v)

to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

(vi)

to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);

(vii)

to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

(viii)

to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;

(ix)

to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;

(x)

to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Operational Guidelines
(year)Cultural
criteriaNatural
criteria 2002 (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) 2005 (i) (ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) (viii) (ix) (vii) (x)

The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations. Since 1992 significant interactions between people and the natural environment have been recognized as cultural landscapes.

Decisions (10)
Decision: 32COM 8B.46
Title: Changes to criteria of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List
Year: 2008

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add,

2. Recalling its decision to unify into one set of criteria the six cultural and four natural criteria in paragraph 77 of the Operational Guidelines (2005),

3. Noting the changes already made to the numbering of geological criteria by its decision 30 COM 8D.1,

4. Approves the criteria numbering as presented in Tables 1 of Document WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add.

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Decision: 30COM 8D.1
Title: Revision of Criteria of Properties Inscribed on the World Heritage List according to the Operational Guidelines (2005)
Year: 2006

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/8D,
  2. Noting the change to criteria numbering of properties inscribed for geological values by its 16th session (Santa Fe, 1992);
  3. Further noting the agreement of the concerned States Parties to the proposed changes as outlined in Tables 1, 2 and 3 of Annex I of Document WHC-06/30.COM/8D;
  4. Decides to approve the criteria numbering as presented in Tables 1, 2 and 3 of Annex I of Document WHC-06/30.COM/8D.

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Decision: 30COM 8D.2
Title: Revision of Criteria of Properties Inscribed on the World Heritage List according to the Operational Guidelines (2005)
Year: 2006

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/8D,
  2. Recalling its decision to unify into one set of criteria the six cultural and four natural criteria in paragraph 77 of the Operational Guidelines (2005);
  3. Noting the changes already made to the numbering of geological criteria by its decision 30 COM 8D.1;
  4. Requests the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies to include the revised criteria numbering in its publications.

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Decision: 07EXTCOM 4A
Title: Progress report on revised Operational Guidelines
Year: 2004

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-04/7 EXT.COM/4 A,
  2. Also noting the oral presentation by the Chairperson of its 27th session (UNESCO, 2003), I. TENTATIVE LISTS
  3. Reminds the States Parties to the Convention about the need to continue submitting their Tentative Lists in accordance with Article 11.1 of the Convention and the corresponding provisions of the Operational Guidelines ;
  4. Requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre, in consultation with the State Parties concerned, to continue updating its records on the basis of the Tentative Lists received – in particular, by removing from its records properties already inscribed in the World Heritage List and nominations which were rejected;
  5. Also requests the Director of the World Heritage Centre to set up an electronic database reflecting any change in the Tentative Lists, and to report on this matter at its 31st session (2007);

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Decision: 06EXTCOM 5.4
Title: New numbering system for the combined criteria (i) to (x)
Year: 2003

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Requests the World Heritage Centre to ensure that all future publications of the World Heritage List indicate the criteria according to which properties were inscribed on the List using the new numbering system for the combined criteria (i) to (x).

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Decision: 21COM VIII.11
Title: Invitation to the Consultative Body to Re-examine the Criteria Concerning the Inscription of Cultural Heritage
Year: 1997

"The World Heritage Committee,

Emphasizing that the Constitutional Act of UNESCO which foresees that it will assist in maintaining, advancing and diffusing knowledge whilst protecting the conservation and safeguarding of universal heritage and in recommending to concerned peoples of international conventions to this effect,

Recalling that Article 1 of the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage considers as "cultural heritage" the monuments, groups of buildings and sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic or scientific points of view,

Taking into account the fact that the intergovernmental Committee for the protection of world cultural and natural heritage establishes a list of cultural and natural properties of outstanding universal value,

Considering the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention and notably the relative criteria concerning the inscription of cultural heritage on the World Heritage List,

Invites the Consultative Body of the Committee to re-examine the criteria concerning the inscription of cultural heritage and notably criterion (i) as well as that of authenticity."

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Decision: 21COM VIII.11
Title: Re-examine of the Criteria Concerning the Inscription of Cultural Heritage and Authenticity
Year: 1997

VIII.11

The World Heritage Committee,

Emphasizing that the Constitutional Act of UNESCO which foresees that it will assist in maintaining, advancing and diffusing knowledge whilst protecting the conservation and safeguarding of universal heritage and in recommending to concerned peoples of international conventions to this effect,

Recalling that Article 1 of the Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage considers as "cultural heritage" the monuments, groups of buildings and sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic or scientific points of view,

Taking into account the fact that the intergovernmental Committee for the protection of world cultural and natural heritage establishes a list of cultural and natural properties of outstanding universal value,

Considering the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention and notably the relative criteria concerning the inscription of cultural heritage on the World Heritage List,

Invites the Consultative Body of the Committee to re-examine the criteria concerning the inscription of cultural heritage and notably criterion (i) as well as that of authenticity.

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Decision: 17COM XVI.1-6
Title: Examination of the Application of the Revised Cultural Criteria of the Operational Guidelines for the Inclusion of Cultural Landscapes on the World Heritage List
Year: 1993

XVI.1 The Committee reviewed document WHC-93/CONF.002/9 and information document WHC-93/CONF.002/INF.4. The Committee recalled the decisions taken at its sixteenth session in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1992 to include cultural landscapes on the World Heritage List, in particular the revision of the cultural criteria of the Operational Guidelines. The Committee took note of the outcome of the expert meeting held in October 1993 in Templin, Germany, at the request of the Committee. The Committee appreciated the organization of the meeting by the World Heritage Centre, assisted by the German Delegation and funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, recognized the work carried out, and noted that the revised cultural criteria and the interpretative paragraphs concerning cultural landscapes in the Operational Guidelines were confirmed by the experts. It furthermore noted, that additional information, guidance and advice be provided to States Parties on the subject of cultural landscapes.

XVI.2 The Committee recalled that a specific recommendation by the experts concerning Paragraph 14 of the Operational Guidelines regarding the involvement of people in the nomination procedure was taken into account during the discussion on the revision of the operational Guidelines (see Chapter XIV of this Report).

XVI.3 Several delegates stressed the necessity of an increased involvement of regional experts. The Secretariat confirmed that the publication of the report of the expert meeting will also include contributions from regions that were not represented at the meeting, and that in the implementation of the Action Plan for the Future a regional approach will be applied. The Delegate of the Philippines announced that preparations are underway for a regional meeting on cultural landscapes to be held in the Philippines in autumn 1994. The Australian Observer underlined the importance of values of indigenous peoples to be recognized both under natural and cultural criteria.

XVI.4 Several delegates complemented the Centre and ICOMOS for the work carried out. The Committee adopted the "Action Plan for the Future", including an amendment proposed by the Delegate of Italy stressing the importance of management experiences on the local and community level (the amended Action Plan is attached as an Annex).

XVI.5 The Committee invited the Centre to undertake the following actions in 1994 and report back to the eighteenth session of the Committee:

  • initiate comparative regional thematic studies;
  • in line with the decisions taken by the Committee regarding tentative lists (see para XI.6), give priority to the revision of these lists to include cultural landscapes;
  • initiate the development of specific guidelines for the management of cultural landscapes along the lines of the already existing guidelines for cultural World Heritage.

XVI.6 The Committee commended the regional approach for future evaluations as outlined by the expert meeting, and requested that the World Heritage Centre implements the suggestions and recommendations made.

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Decision: 03COM XI.36
Title: Amendments to the criteria for the inclusion of cultural and natural properties in the World Heritage List and Guidelines for the evaluation of Nominations to the World Heritage List by ICOMOS and IUCN
Year: 1979

The Committee took note of the typology proposed in Mr. Michel Parent's report. It considered that it was on the basis of the inventories submitted by States Parties that such a typology could be finalized. The question will therefore continue to be studied until its next session.

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Decision: 03COM XI(b).37
Title: Amendments to the criteria for the inclusion of natural properties in the World Heritage List and guidelines for the evaluation of nominations by IUCN
Year: 1979

In view of the difficulty of assessing nominations without an adequate inventory, the Committee decided to encourage States Parties to prepare such inventories. It was furthermore decided to ask IUCN to prepare a proposal for the next meeting of the Bureau relating to the methodology and cost of preparing an inventory on a global basis.

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