2.6 The effect of World Heritage
Thanks to the work of UNESCO and its associated NGOs since the 1970s, World Heritage is a well-established international concept administered by a formidable army of technocrats. The rise of World Heritage has been responsible for the rescue and conservation of numerous monuments to human values and endeavour and to large areas of unique natural environment and landscape across the globe. It has promoted heritages that have previously been neglected, for example rescuing cultures and languages that would otherwise have disappeared. It has promoted heritage cities, contributing to their regeneration in some cases, and, directly or indirectly, major world sites for cultural tourism. World Heritage has considerable implications for cultural tourism and increasingly for eco-tourism, which are major studies in their own right. There is no question that UNESCO and the other heritage NGOs have dramatically raised the profile of global heritage and are continuously seeking to redefine heritage beyond its previous Eurocentred and essentially western viewpoints. This now assists less developed regions of the world to raise their game in the World Heritage stakes.
The many positive aspects of World Heritage are perhaps countered by numerous issues about its politics, protocols and impact. The opportunities to follow up on World Heritage are enormous, through both virtual and actual visits to see what makes a site distinctive enough to obtain such status, and to assess what has been achieved in its protection, restoration, conservation, presentation and interpretation, how it impacts on the local/regional community and economy, and many other generic questions arising from the case studies cited here. Having studied this material, it should be possible to visit as more than a tourist, and to deploy a critical eye and useful skills.
Having read the chapter, you should now have a fairly good understanding of the origins of the World Heritage List and the functions of the various groups that are involved in nominating and assessing sites for inclusion on the list.
Take some time to review what you have learnt about the World Heritage List and theby looking at the full text of the World Heritage Convention.
What, briefly, are the main aims of the Convention? List them in your Learning Journal.
The Convention and its programme aim to encourage countries to ratify and endorse its objects to catalogue, name and conserve sites of cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The Convention also aims to promote World Heritage and develop appropriate educational programmes. What other details did you pick out? Note them for future reference. I’m sure we could regard these aims as highly laudable, but you might think fulfilment is potentially complex (and perhaps costly). However, there are benefits to ratifying the Convention and to having sites listed on the World Heritage List. We will explore some of these further in the next activity.