Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations.
What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory in which they are located.
It is the universal quality of World Heritage sites, transcending national identities that make, for example, a World Heritage site in Egypt equally important to Egyptians and to the peoples of Indonesia, Argentina or Australia.
These qualities are expressed in the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention). States that have signed the Convention recognise that the sites located in their territory, and which have been inscribed on the World Heritage List without prejudice to national sovereignty or ownership, constitute a World Heritage 'for whose protection it is the duty of the international community as a whole to cooperate'.
Without the support of the Convention, some sites with recognised cultural or natural value would deteriorate or, worse, disappear, often through lack of funding to preserve them. States Parties to the Convention contribute the necessary financial and intellectual resources to protect World Heritage sites. As at 2006, 183 countries had signed the Convention, and 830 properties had been included on the World Heritage List.
How does a World Heritage site differ from a site of national heritage? The key lies in the words 'outstanding universal value'.
All countries have sites of local or national heritage significance that are, understandably, a source of national pride. The Convention encourages countries to identify and protect their heritage whether or not it is placed on the World Heritage List.
Sites selected for World Heritage listing are inscribed after carefully assessing whether they represent the best example of cultural and natural heritage.
The World Heritage List includes places many would recognise instantly, as well as less well known places that many may be surprised to find on the list. The List includes places such as: the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras; Old Town of Ghadamès, Libyan Arab Jamahirya; Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland; Yosemite National Park, United States; the Taj Mahal, India; Kluane National Park, Canada; and Banks of the Seine, Paris, France.
Some of the information contained on this site has been provided by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which provides the secretariat for the World Heritage Committee. Detailed information about the World Heritage Convention and all the World Heritage Properties can be obtained from the UNESCO web site .
World Heritage site of the Asia-Pacific Region - Angkor, Cambodia
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