Convention concerning the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage
Convention concerning the Protection of the World
Plaque - Definition of cultural heritage
Signed16–23 November 1972
LocationParis, France
Effective17 December 1975
Condition20 ratifications
Ratifiers194 (190 UN member states plus the Cook Islands, the Holy See, Niue, and Palestine)
DepositaryDirector-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
LanguagesArabic, Chinese, English, French, Hebrew, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish[1]

The World Heritage Convention, formally the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, is an international treaty signed on 23 November 1972, which created the World Heritage Sites, with the primary goals of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The convention, a signed document of international agreement, guides the work of the World Heritage Committee. It was developed over a seven-year period (1965–1972).

The convention defines which sites which can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List, sets out the duties of each country's governments to identify potential sites and to protect and preserve them. Signatory countries pledge to conserve the World Heritage sites situated on their territory, and report regularly on the state of their conservation. The convention also sets out how the World Heritage Fund is to be used and managed.[2]

It was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972, and signed by the President of General Conference of UNESCO, Toru Haguiwara, and the Director-General of UNESCO, René Maheu, on 23 November 1972. It is held in the archives of UNESCO.[2]


The International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia, begun after appeals by Egypt and Sudan in 1959, led to the relocation of 22 monuments. The success of the project, in particular the creation of a coalition of 50 countries behind the project, led UNESCO, together with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), to prepare a draft convention on the protection of cultural heritage.[3]

A White House conference in 1965 called for a "World Heritage Trust" to preserve "the world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry". The International Union for Conservation of Nature developed similar proposals in 1968, which were presented in 1972 to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.[4] Under the World Heritage Committee, signatory countries are required to produce and submit periodic data reporting providing the committee with an overview of each participating nation's implementation of the World Heritage Convention and a 'snapshot' of current conditions at World Heritage properties.[5]

Adoption and implementation

Main article: List of World Heritage Sites by year of inscription

Based on the draft convention that UNESCO had initiated, a single text was eventually agreed upon by all parties, and the "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage" was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.[4] The convention came into force on 17 December 1975, three months after the 20th ratification.[6]

The convention began to be implemented in 1977, after the 40th ratification, and the first names were inscribed to the list in 1978. New names have been added to the list every year since then, at the annual sessions of the World Heritage Committee.[7]


The convention contains 38 articles. The key articles are set out below:[1]

Article 1: Definition of cultural heritage
Article 2: Definition of natural heritage
Article 4: Duties of governments
Article 8: World Heritage Committee
Article 15: Fund
Article 19: Requests for assistance
Article 22: Forms of assistance
Article 25: Sharing of Costs
Article 29: Reporting duties


As of March 2022, the convention has been ratified by 194 states: 190 UN member states, 2 UN observer states (the Holy See and the State of Palestine), and 2 states in free association with New Zealand (the Cook Islands and Niue). Only three UN member states have not ratified the convention: Liechtenstein, Nauru, and Tuvalu.[8]



  1. ^ a b Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage – Complete Text Archived 1 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine UNESCO. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b Centre, UNESCO World Heritage (16 November 1972). "The World Heritage Convention". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  3. ^ The World Heritage Convention: "The event that aroused particular international concern was the decision to build the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, which would have flooded the valley containing the Abu Simbel temples, a treasure of ancient Egyptian civilization. In 1959, after an appeal from the governments of Egypt and Sudan, UNESCO launched an international safeguarding campaign. Archaeological research in the areas to be flooded was accelerated. Above all, the Abu Simbel and Philae temples were dismantled, moved to dry ground and reassembled. The campaign cost about US$80 million, half of which was donated by some 50 countries, showing the importance of solidarity and nations' shared responsibility in conserving outstanding cultural sites. Its success led to other safeguarding campaigns, such as saving Venice and its Lagoon (Italy) and the Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro (Pakistan), and restoring the Borobodur Temple Compounds (Indonesia). Consequently, UNESCO initiated, with the help of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the preparation of a draft convention on the protection of cultural heritage."
  4. ^ a b "The World Heritage Convention – Brief History / Section "Linking the protection of cultural and natural heritage"". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 26 May 2020. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  5. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage (21 September 2022). "Periodic Reporting". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 4 November 2022.
  6. ^ Meskell, L. (2018). A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace. Oxford University Press. pp. 71–72. ISBN 978-0-19-064834-3. Retrieved 4 November 2022.
  7. ^ "States Parties – UNESCO World Heritage Centre". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 31 October 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2022.