About World Heritage

A shared heritage that belongs to all mankind and must be preserved for future generations

World Heritage refers to places that are to be protected and preserved through international cooperation so that future generations can continue to enjoy them as one part of the common human legacy that has been handed down over the centuries. These places are indicated on UNESCO's World Heritage List, which was created in accordance with the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

The idea for World Heritage sites dates back to 1959, when ancient Nubian treasures in Egypt, such as the Abu Simbel temples, faced destruction by the flooding that was to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam. UNESCO responded to the crisis with a worldwide campaign to safeguard the treasures and succeeded in garnering the cooperation of many countries to help move them to a safer location.

This was followed in 1972 with UNESCO's launch of the Man and Biosphere Programme. That same year, amid growing global interest worldwide in natural conservation, the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted unanimously at the 17th General Conference of UNESCO. Japan became a party to the convention after it was approved by the Diet in 1992.

There are three main requirements for a place to be listed as a World Heritage site. First, it must have outstanding universal value, globally speaking. Second, the place must meet at least one of the criteria stated by the World Heritage Committee. And third, there must be a mechanism in place for safeguarding and managing the site so that its value can be preserved for future generations.

Categories of World Heritage sites

Cultural sites 869 Monuments, buildings, ancient ruins, cultural scenery, and other such places with outstanding universal value.
Natural sites 213 Geological areas or features, landscapes, animal habitats facing destruction, and other such places with outstanding universal value.
Mixed sites 39 Places with the combined value of being a cultural and a natural heritage.
* The number of World Heritage Sites listed above is as of July 2019 (for a total of 1121 sites); the figures are based on the website of the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan.

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