In 1972 the ‘World Heritage Convention’ was adopted by UNESCO and 191 states have now acceded to the Convention. It has become the most important international instrument for the protection of cultural and natural heritage.
Since 1978 UNESCO has maintained a ‘World Heritage List’, to which is added cultural and natural properties deemed to be of such ‘outstanding universal value’ that their demise would be an irreparable loss for all humanity. Responsibility for the care of this cultural and natural heritage is thereby not only the responsibility of individual states but comes under the protection of all humanity.
At the time of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) there were already plans to propose portions of the historic centres of Stralsund and Wismar as World Heritage, but it was only by the end of 1995 that these plans started to be implemented. Financial support from the German Foundation for Monument Protection and support given by the State Conservation Office in 1997 paved the way for the development of the first, yet still separate World Heritage nominations for national selection. By 1998 the first hurdle was overcome: The conference of cultural ministries of the Federal Republic of Germany placed the two cities as 7th on the national Tentative List of candidates for UNESCO World Heritage status.
In 1999 the two cities began to work together on their nomination to the World Heritage list. Each city also developed a management plan and monitoring measures as tools to monitor their conservation status. At the end of the year 2000, the Hanseatic cities submitted their application to UNESCO in Paris.
In 2001, Stralsund and Wismar founded the German World Heritage Foundation. The aim of the Foundation is to contribute to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and thus assume common responsibility for the worldwide cultural and natural heritage.
On June 27th 2002 the World Heritage Committee in Budapest made a favourable decision regarding the nomination of the Hanseatic cities for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.