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UNESCO 50th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention

01 November 2022

The United Nations itself was established in London in the aftermath of the Second World War to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.

Having the war still at the back of their minds, UNESCO saw a need to protect and celebrate sites of special signifi cance to the cultural heritage of humanity. Protection of cultural property in conflict was the subject matter of the 1954 Hague Convention, and UNESCO came into action with their first emergency intervention shortly afterwards.

This objective was reflected in UNESCO’s own founding Constitution which declared that:

“since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”;

The World Heritage programme was launched in 1972 through the adoption of the World Heritage Convention by UNESCO. The core objective of the Convention is to ensure the protection of the world's most significant cultural and natural heritage sites, for the benefit of current and future generations of all humanity through creating a list of those sites of greatest importance to humanity.

The Convention emphasises that World Heritage belongs to all mankind and is an expression of not only our shared heritage but of our common humanity.

To celebrate 50th anniversary consider the 50 years of the World Heritage


  • The most significant feature of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties.
  • 1975 The World Heritage convention formally takes effect after ratification by 20 state parties.
  • 1978 The World Heritage Committee draws up Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
  • 1992 Cultural landscapes were included as
  • a new category.
  • 2002 The WH Committee adopts the Budapest Declaration on World Heritage through 4 key Strategic Objectives ( the 4 Cs’ , Credibility, Conservation, capacity building and Communications) and in 2007 Communities were added.
  • 2018 Wassaw recommendation on recovery and reconstruction of cultural heritage following armed conflict or disasters.
  • Looking to incorporate the UN Sustainable Development Goals within World Heritage management.

Over 1100 sites in more than 150 countries have been inscribed as world heritage sites representing a world wide recognition of globally important sites.  

The Next 50: World Heritage as a source of resilience, humanity and innovation.

 Consider where World Heritage might head in the coming years in terms of challenges and opportunities.

  • World Heritage role in addressing climate change
  • Fostering peace -

 'the promotion of greater understanding of and between different peoples, cultures and nations to support peace between them

  • Models of sustainable tourism that benefit sites and surrounding communities
  • Reconciliation of conservation and urban/rural development
  • Contribution as well as threats of new technologies to the protection and promotion of heritage in the next 50 years
  • Application of lessons learned during

the COVID-19 pandemic to the future conservation efforts

  • The role of cultural and natural heritage to meet the increasing environmental and social challenges of our times



About the author

Mairi Lock World Heritage Site Coordinator Lake District World Heritage Site

Coordinating World Heritage Site communications on behalf of the Lake District National Park Partnership