page_114-468-468-20121010152026As we stand at the threshold of a new year, it is time to reflect back on the year that just went by. While there were additions to the overall World Heritage List, taking the total number of sites to 1007, a lot of precious heritage was lost to the treacherous acts of terror, specially in the middle eastern countries of Egypt, Syria etc.  That indeed makes us think, why is world heritage important? How do heritage sites get listed in the first place?

World Heritage properties can only be nominated by the national government of a country (also known as a State Party) that has signed and ratified the World Heritage Convention. India was ratified as a permanent member on November 14, 1977. In India, the Archaeological Survey of India, which works under the jurisdiction of the Union Ministry of Culture is responsible for the nomination of World Heritage properties, with INTACH and  other organisations aiding it.
Once the nomination is filed, the decision to ‘inscribe’ the property on the World Heritage list is made by the World Heritage Committee which meets annually. The committee comprises  of a group of elected representatives of 21 of the States Parties based at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris .

To be included on the World Heritage List, properties must

– have an outstanding universal value;and

– meet and justify at least one of ten selection criteria.


The term ‘ Outstanding Universal value’ is the key to the meaning of World Heritage. It defines the importance of World Heritage properties, transcending national boundaries. The term comprehensively lists heritage sites that are extraordinary so that no matter which country they are found in, and who experiences them, they evoke a sense of wonder and admiration.

The ten selection criteria are set by UNESCO. A property that is nominated for its cultural significance could, for example, represent a work of human creative genius;  a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;. A property nominated for its natural values could have exceptional natural beauty; contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity. Get the full list of selection criteria here
Nominating, assessing and inscribing a heritage property to the World heritage List is a complex process involving various stages of extensive evaluation and can sometimes take many years.
  • First, the State Party must make an “inventory” of potential properties. This is a tentative list comprising of properties which may be nominated in the next 5-10 years, which can be updated anytime. This is important since the World Heritage Committee  considers a nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List only if the property has already been included on the State Party’s Tentative List.
  • Once a heritage site is picked from the tentative list, a detailed documentation dossier supporting the property’s nomination is prepared, compiled, and sent to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre for review.
  • The World Heritage Commitee then sends the nomination for an assessment by impartial, non-governmental advisory bodies and relevant scientific and technical experts. These include the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
  • At the annual convention, based on the advisory bodies’ recommendations, the committee has the final say on whether the nominated property is to be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The assessment process is rigorous and demanding, and not every nominated property makes it to the list. Learn more about the selection process here.

India currently has 32 inscribed World Heritage properties the latest additions being, Rani Ki Wav and The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area. It also has 46 properties on the tentative list.

How many World Heritage Sites have you been to as a tourist or as part of the GoUNESCO Challenge? What was your experience?  What is the one memory that will remain you when you think of a particular site?

Doodle, sketch, photograph your experiences and share it with us on GoUNESCO.

Disclaimer- This blog only describes the world heritage nomination process. Certain technical terms have been made with reference to the UNESCO World Heritage Center. The author is an independent heritage professional. This is not an official post by the WHC. JayaramBlogdivya jayaram,past,travel,world heritage travel
As we stand at the threshold of a new year, it is time to reflect back on the year that just went by. While there were additions to the overall World Heritage List, taking the total number of sites to 1007, a lot of precious heritage was lost to...