The World Heritage Site and the criteria for inclusion in the "WORLD HERITAGE LIST"

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More and more frequently we hear about sites considered World Heritage sites when included in the World Heritage List ofUNESCO (UNESCO World Heritage). But what exactly does it mean that a site is considered a World Heritage Site? To understand this we must start from Paris World Heritage Convention of 1972 " AGREEMENT CONCERNING THE WORLDWIDE PROTECTION OF CULTURAL AND NATURAL HERITAGE ".  The Convention provides the definitions of the Cultural and Natural Heritage. Cultural heritage is defined as monuments or exceptional ensembles historically, artistically or scientifically. Natural sites are physical or biological formations that have extraordinary aesthetic or scientific value. The mixed sites, the result of the combined action of nature and man, preserve the memory of traditional ways of life and represent the link between nature and culture. 180 States have adhered to the Convention (31/03/2005), which by joining, undertake to protect the sites in their territory that fall within one of the two definitions. To some of them, those of particular value, Unesco recognizes the title of World Heritage, making their protection a shared responsibility among all the members of the international community. The Convention, among other things, has established an international committee based in Paris at UNESCO, which supervises the application of the Convention by the signatories and decides the inclusion of new sites on the List.

La World Heritage List  includes (data updated with the 41 session of the Unesco Committee in Krakow in July 2017) 1073 sites of which 832 cultural, 206 natural sites  e 35 mixed sites divided into 167 member countries.

Italy is currently the nation with the largest number of sites included in the World Heritage List (53 sites), followed by China (52) and Spain (45).

France and Germany also have more than 40 heritages, with respectively 42 and 41 recognized sites.

Unesco sites 2017)

The first World Heritage List was compiled in 1978. Sites then included included the Memphis Necropolis and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, Yellowstone Park in the United States, the Creuse churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia and the ¡ntic city. of Damascus in Syria. The Baroque Towns of Val di Noto were added in 2002.

Some of the sites on the Unesco list are also included in the "list of world heritage in danger". These are sites whose conditions give rise to serious concern, for which there is a "serious and precise" threat of degradation and which require extensive maintenance work.

The procedures for inclusion in the List, the rules for the selection of assets and the identification of the criteria to which they must meet for registration in the World Heritage List are indicated in the Operational Guidelines revised in July 2015 which, together with text of the Convention, represent the main document of the World Heritage Committee. (download the guidelines: document-57-1)

The criteria are regularly reviewed by the Committee to adapt to the evolution of the concept of World Heritage. In Italy, the Unesco World Heritage Office of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities issued in 2004 the "Guidelines for the preparation and implementation of management plans" and in 2005 the document "Model for the realization of Management plans ".

The procedures provide for the submission of applications by individual member states to UNESCO.

Each State is required to submit a proposal list (attempts list) in which the assets to be registered within 5-10 years are reported. In a subsequent phase, the complete documentation is prepared and presented for each individual asset, which must be examined for definitive registration in the List. The documentation presented is examined by the Commission, with the technical support of experts from ICOMOS for sites of historical and artistic value and from UICN for natural sites.

Applications for inclusion in the Italian Proposal List must be forwarded by the Administrations competent for the management of the site (eg Mayor, Superintendence or a Park Authority) to the President of the Interministerial Working Group at the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities. This group evaluates the various proposals received for the purpose of compiling the new proposal list. Each year the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities decides which Sites already present in the proposal list must be presented to the World Heritage Committee.

Until the end of 2004, according to the operational guidelines of 2002, a site to be included in the list had to meet, in addition to the criterion of authenticity, one or more criteria chosen from a list of 6 criteria for cultural sites and 4 criteria for natural sites.

With the adoption of the operational guidelines of 2005 there is a single list of criteria structured as follows (criteria reconfirmed in 2012, 2015 and in 2016):


2002 2005/2016 Italian English
(I) (I) represent a masterpiece of the creative genius of man to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
(Ii) (Ii) have exerted a considerable influence in a given period or in a given cultural area, on the development of architecture, monumental arts, urban planning or the creation of landscapes

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) (Iii) constitute unique or at least exceptional testimony of a civilization ¯ of a disappeared cultural tradition 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) (Iv) offer a prominent example of a type of building or architectural complex or landscape that illustrates a significant period in human history 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) (V) constitute an eminent example of human settlement or occupation of the traditional territory, representative of a cultural (or cultures) especially when it becomes vulnerable as a result of irreversible mutations 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) (vi) be directly or materially associated with living events or traditions, ideas, beliefs or artistic and literary works with an exceptional universal significance (criterion to be applied only in exceptional circumstances or in conjunction with other criteria) 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);
(Iii) (vii) contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
(I) (Viii) represent outstanding examples of the main stages in the history of the earth, including the presence of life, significant geological processes in place for the development of the land shape or significant geomorphic or physiographic features 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;
(Ii) (Ix) to be an outstanding example of ecological and biological processes in the development and erosion of terrestrial ecosystems, fresh, coastal and marine waters and communities of plants and animals, 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;
(Iv) (X) contain the most important and significant habitats for the in situ conservation of iological diversity, including those containing threatened species of exceptional universal value from a scientific or conservation point of view 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.

The first 6 criteria refer to cultural sites and the other 4 to natural ones.

(The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.)

The Criteria are regularly revised to reflect the evolution of the very concept of World Heritage Site® A significant revision took place in 1995 when the World Heritage Center revised and expanded the indications of the Guidelines, defining the criteria relating to cultural landscapes, intended as joint works of nature and of.

This category of goods, which "illustrate the evolution of society and human settlements over the centuries, under the influence of solicitations and / or advantages originating in their natural environment and subsequent social, economic and cultural forces, internal and external "(from the" Regulation for the action of the World Heritage Convention "), must meet the requirement of exceptional universal value on the basis of their representativeness © n terms of clearly defined geo-cultural region and their power to illustrate the essential and distinct cultural elements of these regions.

This recognition of landscape assets reflects a changed sensitivity ¥ awareness of the value that the context can wear, beyond ¯ in addition to the intrinsic value of the monumental emergency; a territorial scale in which the single monumental testimonies are connected to the history, image and cultural values ​​of entire landscape contexts.

The typological classifications of landscapes currently in use in the Convention include:

  • gardens and parks created by man, understood as clearly defined landscapes, often associated with buildings or religious complexes, conceived and created intentionally by the people for aesthetic reasons;
  • landscapes of an evolutionary type, or landscapes which, derived from a social, economic, administrative or religious origin, reflect in their current form the evolutionary process of their association and correlation with the natural entity. The cultural landscape of an evolutionary type can be a relic - that is, `` to which the evolutionary process in the past has been restored but whose essential characteristics remain materially visible - or living - that is, which preserves an active social role in the ways that continue its previous tradition, of which the testimonies of the ¬ution over time are evident.
  • associative landscape, understood as landscapes in which the presence of tangible cultural traces prevails, plus the force of association of religious, artistic or cultural phenomena of the natural soul.

Since each site can be elected as a cultural heritage of the entity © n function of one or more activations, the total number of selection criteria represents an indirect measure of the qualitative, as well as quantitative, value of the site included in the list.

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