"" Writer's Wanderings: What Is A World Heritage Site?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

What Is A World Heritage Site?

Iguazu Falls, A World Heritage Site
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, had its beginnings in the mid 1940s.  Shortly after the United Nations officially came into existence,a conference was held with 44 participating countries whose delegates decided to create an organization that would promote a culture of peace, establish an "intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind," and prevent another world war. When the conference ended on November 16, 1945, 37 of the participating countries founded UNESCO.

UNESCO operates with several themes one of which involves the World Heritage Center which identifies sites to be protected all over the world in an effort to promote the maintenance of cultural, historic and/or natural heritage in those places for others to see. Examples are the Pyramids of Giza, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and Peru's Machu Picchu.

In all there are 981 sites that the World Heritage Committee has deemed to have outstanding universal value. Among other criteria, World Heritage Sites must exhibit significant historical value, or represent a masterpiece of creative human genius, or be an outstanding representation of a natural phenomenon. Countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, pledging to protect and preserve their sites may nominate sites for consideration by the committee. Once a year, the members meet and go over the nominations and either approve or defer selection for further study.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
When an area is threatened due to nature or progress or whatever else man may instill, the Heritage Site is put on a danger list and monies are given to help promote restoration and preservation. Venice seems to be an ongoing project since the site is so prone to flooding. One of the places we have visited that has been a success story is the Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The ‘pearl of the Adriatic’, dotted with beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings had withstood the passage of centuries and survived several earthquakes. It was put on the List of World Heritage in Danger when heavy artillery fire seriously damaged it in late 1991. With UNESCO providing technical advice and financial assistance, the Croatian Government restored the facades of the Franciscan and Dominican cloisters, repaired roofs and rebuilt palaces. By December 1998, it became possible to remove the city from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Nothing is more disturbing than to visit places with a history where evidence of historical significance has been wiped out because of uprisings, natural disasters, war, etc. We can only hope that this effort to preserve our history will continue to provide generations to come with our story.

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