World Heritage sites are properties considered to have “Outstanding Universal Value※.” It must meet one or more of the following criteria, as well as the integrity and authenticity. In addition, an appropriate conservation management system must ensure the site’s preservation.
※Outstanding Universal Value refers to outstanding cultural significance and natural value that transcends national boundaries and is of common importance to all humankind for present and future generations. The permanent protection of such heritage is most important to the international community.
Criteria for Selection
- To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
- To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design
- To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared
- To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria)
- To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change
- It has a direct or substantial relation to any events, living traditions, ideas, beliefs, artistic or literary works of Outstanding Universal Value (this criterion should be used in conjunction with other criteria).
- To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance
- To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features
- To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
- To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation
Depending on the type of cultural heritage, and its cultural context, properties may be understood to meet the conditions of authenticity if their cultural values (as recognized in the nomination criteria proposed) are truthfully and credibly expressed through a variety of attributes including:
- form and design
- location and setting
- materials and substance
- language, and other forms of intangible heritage
- use and function
- spirit and feeling
- traditions, techniques and management systems
- other internal and external factors
Integrity is a measure of the wholeness and intactness of the natural and/or cultural heritage and its attributes. Examining the conditions of integrity, therefore requires assessing the extent to which the property:
- includes all elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value;
- is of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the features and processes which convey the property’s significance;
- suffers from adverse effects of development and/or neglect.
Protection and management
All properties inscribed on the World Heritage List must have adequate long-term legislative, regulatory, institutional and/or traditional protection and managementt※ to ensure their safeguarding. This protection should include adequately delineated boundaries.
Similarly States Parties should demonstrate adequate protection at the national, regional, municipal, and/or traditional level for the nominated property. They should append appropriate texts to the nomination with a clear explanation of the way this protection operates to protect the nominated property. Information on protection and management should also be included at the stage of the Preliminary Assessment.
※ In Japan, property for World Heritage Sites must be permanently protected by designation under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.