Whose World Heritage? The problem with UNESCO’s famous list; Chloe Maurel; Equal Times

South Africa – Maloti-Drakensberg Park

In 1972 the United National Education, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted its Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage leading to its famous list of world heritage sites, an inventory of sites considered of outstanding universal value.

More than 1,000 sites are now included on this prestigious list. Italy has the most sites listed, with 53 entries, France is in fourth place with 43 sites, but some countries in the southern hemisphere, such as Rwanda and Liberia, have none.

The World Heritage Fund, which manages these sites, has an annual budget of US$2.5 million, a very modest budget compared to UNESCO’s total annual budget of US$333 million, but the symbolic value of this world heritage list is very high.

As Mechtild Rössler, director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre explains, “developing countries often lack the institutions needed to support this process.

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