World Heritage
World Heritage

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World Heritage

2.3.3 Global representation

In 2009 there were 878 World Heritage sites situated in 145 State Parties (countries). Of the total, 679 are essentially cultural, 174 natural and 25 described as mixed properties. As Table 1 shows, UNESCO classifies countries into five geographic regions, each perhaps with shared concepts of heritage – Africa, the Arab States (North Africa and the Middle East), Asia and the Pacific (including Australia, New Zealand and Oceania), Europe and North America (USA and Canada), and Latin America and the Caribbean. Note that Russia and Caucasus countries are included in the Europe and North America region. Table 1 includes a breakdown of the sites according to these regions and their classification:

Table 1 Types of site by region (UNESCO)

RegionCulturalNaturalMixedTotal%
Africa40333769%
Arab States6041657%
Asia and the Pacific12548918221%
Europe and North America37254943549%
Latin America and the Caribbean8235312014%
(Source: data from UNESCO, 2009)

Analysis of such statistics needs to take account of the way UNESCO defines its geographic regions, which inevitably skews the data. Indeed, the emphasis on administrative rather than political units makes evaluation difficult beyond the obvious. So where are the sites in Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, and elsewhere? The overwhelming dominance of Europe and North America, with nearly half the sites, suggests the developed world has been highly proactive with regard to World Heritage and been suitably rewarded by UNESCO. Second, the prominence of cultural sites, more than three-quarters of the total, is clear, and raises pretty obvious questions about the balance between cultural and natural heritage in the World Heritage portfolio. And it suggests very different views about what constitutes World Heritage in different parts of the globe.

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