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What is a World Heritage site?


World Heritage Organization
Evidently, Oman didn't protect its natural heritage enough. The country's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was removed from the World Heritage List after endangered oryx started declining.
Evidently, Oman didn't protect its natural heritage enough. The country's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was removed from the World Heritage List after endangered oryx started declining.
Joseph Van Os/Getty Images

It turns out just being an outstanding example of universal value isn't enough to gain World Heritage status. First of all, only those countries that have agreed to protect their natural and cultural heritage by signing the World Heritage Convention can nominate sites. As of 2007, there were 185 member countries, or states parties [source: UNESCO].Several perks come with signing the convention. Besides being able to submit sites for the World Heritage List, a state party can receive money from the World Heritage Fund to assist it in identifying, preserving and promoting sites. The fund holds approximately $4 million at any given time [source: UNESCO Information Kit]. In addition to financial assistance, having a UNESCO World Heritage site usually generates tourism dollars.

The states parties, collectively known as the general assembly, meet once every two years to elect members to the World Heritage Committee -- the body responsible for selecting sites, as you might remember. The committee tries to ensure the continuous preservation of sites by evaluating site reviews every six years, and it also allocates financial assistance to countries that need it.

Once a country has submitted a comprehensive nomination file with all of the necessary paperwork, several specialized organizations assist the committee by reviewing the files. Two nongovernmental groups, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN), respectively judge cultural and natural nominees.

As if that's not enough acronyms, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) offers the committee its expertise on how to conserve the selected sites.

Although states parties are the official submitters of sites for possible inclusion on the World Heritage List, you can suggest one by contacting your country's representative. Who knows, maybe you'll be responsible for the 852nd World Heritage site.

Interested in seeing some of the sights on the World Heritage List? Visit the links on the next page.


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