Gabled houses Stralsund

UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO stands for "United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization", i.e. the U.N. institution responsible for education, science and culture.

The UNESCO adopted the international "Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage", better known as the World Heritage Convention, in 1972. Since then, 191 countries have joined the Convention, which has become the most important international instrument for protecting cultural and natural treasures.

Under the terms of the World Heritage Convention, the UNESCO has been keeping the so-called World Heritage List since 1978. Places of outstanding natural and cultural importance inscribed in this list are so valuable that their destruction would be considered an irreplaceable loss to mankind. Responsibility for the protection of sites included in the list lies not only with the country to which these treasures belong, but is a duty of all of humankind.

Cultural heritage sites include historical monuments, city ensembles and cultural landscape design. Natural treasures include geological formations, natural landscapes, as well as protected habitats of animal and plant species threatened by extinction.

To be inscribed in the World Heritage List, sites must satisfy the selection criteria by providing evidence, that the cultural or natural site is of ‘outstanding universal value', and by submitting a convincing plan to ensure the site's preservation. The World Heritage Committee meets once a year to decide which of the member countries' nominations should be endorsed. The international panel consists of 21 members chosen by the countries that signed the Convention. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) consult the committee in its decision.

The World Heritage List includes 1031 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage. These include 802 cultural, 197 natural and 32 mixed properties in 163 State Parties.