The first step towards protecting World Heritage Sites is to compile a list of all the World Heritage Sites in the world, based on their importance and threat to the world’s ecosystems. This information is available from lists maintained by UNESCO and other agencies. A list of World Heritage Sites has an economic and social value as it helps guide the governmental policies and programmes with respect to these sites. Conservation of these sites is a legal obligation for all countries, irrespective of their size, in accordance with the Convention on World Heritage Sites.
List of World Heritage Sites
Based on the list, a Country Review Program is conducted and the activities undertaken to preserve the status of the World Heritage List is also analyzed. The procedures followed include reviews of each site, discussions on the status of the site, recommendations for amendments that may be necessary, and a management plan that assesses the need and scope of such additions or modifications. A team of UNESCO experts and staff are assigned to deal with each site. They record data regarding the conservation efforts made, present and previous records concerning the protection of the site, media attention and comments from the public, and specialist support services such as consultants and local guides. An online database is also available that contains all this information relating to the World Heritage Sites of a country, listed in alphabetical order.
For a country to be given the responsibility of listing a site, it must have fulfilled the minimum criteria required by UNESCO and the country must have the resources to preserve it, while promoting tourism at the same time. A country that wants to participate in the list of world heritage sites should ensure that its list of World Heritage Sites is up to date and it should protect all the sites it includes in its list. It should also be able to protect other important sites outside its borders. UNESCO should ensure that all the criteria for listing are met and also take into consideration other external factors such as compatibility and proximity to tourism.
In its attempt to expand the list of World Heritage sites, UNESCO needs the help of countries outside its region to compile the necessary information. This is done by drawing up lists of important World Heritage sites outside the geographical area where the site is situated. The information is provided according to the priorities agreed with the countries involved. This can include information on sites in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Information On The Sites
Information on the sites included in the list is often not adequate. In some cases, insufficient information has been provided and UNESCO needs the assistance of other experts from other countries to verify this information before a final list is made. UNESCO needs to collect additional information from experts outside the organization and from cities and countries outside the site in order to make a more comprehensive list of World Heritage sites. UNESCO has a website where all the needed information can be found.
UNESCO needs to develop a procedure to provide certification to States that their lists are accurate. This will allow them to accept certificates from other international organizations that are recognized by UNESCO and also to gain credibility in the eyes of regional and international organizations. UNESCO should also review the list once a year to determine whether the procedures and criteria used in the compilation have changed. Doing so could eliminate certain sites from being included in the list.
More About World Heritage Sites
An updated list of World Heritage sites is an invaluable tool for future decision making. It allows people and organizations to assess conservation practices in different regions. It can show different strategies that have been tried in a region and suggest innovative approaches to conserve the heritage. It is also important for professionals and citizens to check the status of their locations on a regularly scheduled basis to learn about changes in management, availability of resources, and other important facts.
UNESCO should immediately investigate all claims made concerning the status of a World Heritage Site. It should conduct credible investigations even when it is not formally opened or when it comes to a period reserved for administrative activities. If a site is included in a list and lacks adequate documentation, UNESCO should take necessary corrective measures to mitigate the negative effects caused by such a site before listing the site.