What is UNESCO World Heritage?

What is Unesco World Cultural Heritage

Examples of UNESCO World Heritage Designations

If you often wonder 'What is Culture?' and seek a definition of culture, UNESCO's designations offer a lot of food for thought. People Are Culture presents more than 35 interviews and feature articles that explore UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Items of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the broader context of their surrounding culture, and through the lens of anthropology. These highly readable stories bring to life the places and activities that UNESCO has declared to be of universal human value.

Through worldwide collaboration in education, the arts, sciences, and culture, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) works to advance world peace and security. Along with partners in the business, intergovernmental, and non-governmental sectors, it has 193 member states and 12 associate members. 53 regional field offices and 199 national commissions help UNESCO, which has its main office at the World Heritage Centre in Paris, France, carry out its global mandate.

Two of UNESCO's best-known initiatives are programs that designate World Heritage Sites and Items of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The World Heritage Site designation came into being in 1975, after a seven-year period of development by UNESCO members. The original impetus was a call by the U.S. to preserve "the world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry".

In 2008, UNESCO established its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. This designation includes two lists. The longer, Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, comprises cultural "practices and expressions [that] help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance." The shorter, List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, is composed of those cultural elements that concerned communities and countries consider to require urgent measures to keep them alive.

World Heritage Sites

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? This is a designation for a landmark or region that has legal protection under a global agreement overseen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. UNESCO names places as World Heritage Sites when they are considered to be of significant cultural, historical, scientific, or other value. "Cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of extraordinary importance to humanity" is said to be present at these locations.

A World Heritage Site must be an unusual landmark that is easily recognized geographically and historically and has outstanding cultural or physical importance in order to be chosen. World Heritage Sites could include, for instance, historical or ancient ruin sites, as well as buildings, towns, deserts, forests, islands, lakes, monuments, mountains, or wilderness regions. A World Heritage Site may be a location of outstanding natural beauty or it may represent a significant human achievement that serves as proof of our intellectual past on the planet.

There are 1,154 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 167 countries around the world. The list includes 897 sites designated for cultural reasons, 218 sites of natural significance, and 39 mixed properties. To get a better understanding of the kinds of places that get the UNESCO World Heritage designation and why, check out these interviews below! Each article offers a broad context on a region that is home to UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a personal perspective on the local culture and surrounding cultural landscape.

Intangible Cultural Heritage

A practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill is considered by UNESCO to be a part of a place's cultural legacy. This is known as Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). Cultural property includes structures, landmarks, monuments, and objects. Non-material intellectual richness including folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language make up the intangible legacy. Members of UNESCO take into account intangible cultural heritage in relation to tangible World Heritage, with an emphasis on intangible facets of culture. The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was drafted in 2003 for its protection and promotion after UNESCO conducted a survey of States and NGOs in 2001 to try to reach a consensus on a definition.

We share interviews and stories about Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) presented in three sections:

"The Big Picture", which looks at ICH in a broad sense through interviews with global thought leaders;

Beliefs & Traditions, which explores the arts, attitudes, perspectives, practices, and values of culture creators and stewards from a specific culture;

Folklore, Knowledge & Language, which focuses on the transmission of culture on a daily basis and historically, as well as efforts to preserve indigenous identity and wisdom.

The Big Picture

Beliefs & Traditions

Folklore, Knowledge & Language