Glossary

Find the definition of the technical terms related to ICOMOS’ work for the World Heritage Convention.

Advisory body
Authenticity
Buffer zone
Comparative analysis
Cultural heritage
Cultural landscape
Deferral of a nomination
Desk review
Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List
ICOMOS World Heritage Panel
Integrity
International assistance
List of World Heritage in Danger
Management system/management plan
Nomination dossier
Outstanding Universal Value
Reactive monitoring
Referral of a nomination
SOC report
State Party
Tentative List
Thematic study
UNESCO World Heritage Convention
World Heritage Committee
World Heritage Fund

 

 

 

 

Advisory body

The Advisory Bodies are three international non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations named in the World Heritage Convention to advise the World Heritage Committee in the implementation of the Convention. They are the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The specific role of ICOMOS in relation to the Convention includes: evaluation of properties nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List, monitoring the state of conservation of World Heritage cultural properties, reviewing requests for International Assistance submitted by States Parties, and providing input and support for capacity-building activities. (Operational Guidelines par. 35)

Paragraphs 30-37 of the Operational Guidelines further describe the role of the Advisory Bodies.

Authenticity

All cultural properties must meet the fundamental condition of authenticity in order to demonstrate their Outstanding Universal Value. An authentic property expresses its cultural values in a truthful and credible way through a variety of attributes such as its form, materials, function, management system, location, spirit, etc.

The condition of authenticity is further defined in the Operational Guidelines, paragraphs 79 to 86.

Buffer zone

Buffer zones are clearly delineated areas outside a World Heritage property and adjacent to its boundaries which contribute to the protection, conservation, management, integrity, authenticity and sustainability of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Where buffer zones are defined, they should be seen as an integral component of the State Party’s commitment to the protection, conservation and management of the World Heritage property. (This text is based on Preparing World Heritage Nominations, 2011, p.32)

Comparative analysis

The comparative analysis is a fundamental component of any nomination dossier for World Heritage. It explains the importance of the nominated property both in its national and international context. In order to do this, the property should be compared with similar properties, whether on the World Heritage List or not. The comparison should outline the similarities the nominated property has with other properties and the reasons that make the nominated property stand out. (This text is based on Preparing World Heritage Nominations, 2011, p.32)

Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage is defined in Article 1 of the World Heritage Convention:

For the purposes of this Convention, the following shall be considered as "cultural heritage":

  • monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
  • groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
  • sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view.

Cultural landscape

Cultural landscapes are cultural properties and represent the "combined works of nature and of man" designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal. (Operational Guidelines par. 47)

Deferral of a nomination

Every year, the World Heritage Committee examines the properties nominated by States Parties for inscription on the World Heritage List. After the Committee takes note of the evaluations and recommendations made by the Advisory Bodies, it may decide to defer a nomination for more in-depth assessment or study, or for a substantial revision by the State Party. Should the State Party decide to resubmit the deferred nomination in any subsequent year, it must then be reevaluated by the relevant Advisory Bodies.

For more information on the decisions of the World Heritage Committee, consult paragraphs 153-160 of the Operational Guidelines.

Desk review

As part of the evaluation process for cultural properties nominated for the World Heritage List, ICOMOS consults professionals whose expertise is relevant to the typology, geographical area and historical period of the properties. These experts are asked to submit their observations and comments on the nominations’ content (selected criteria, comparative analysis, bibliography, etc.) and on the Outstanding Universal Value of the properties. Their contribution takes the shape of a written report called a desk review.

Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List

In 1994, the World Heritage Committee launched the Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List. Twenty-two years after the adoption of the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the World Heritage List lacked balance in the type of inscribed properties and in the geographical areas of the world that were represented. Among the 410 properties, 304 were cultural sites and only 90 were natural and 16 mixed, while the vast majority was located in developed regions of the world, notably in Europe.

By adopting the Global Strategy, the World Heritage Committee wanted to broaden the definition of World Heritage to better reflect the full spectrum of our world’s cultural and natural treasures and to provide a comprehensive framework and operational methodology for implementing the World Heritage Convention. (Text based on the World Heritage Centre's website).

ICOMOS World Heritage Panel

The ICOMOS World Heritage Panel is responsible for the evaluation of cultural and mixed properties nominated for World Heritage status. In this regard, it formulates ICOMOS' official recommendations regarding the listing of these sites. The Panel meets twice during the 18-month evaluation cycle, with a first main meeting held in late November/early December. This is followed by a second shorter meeting in March of the following year to study any additional information provided by States Parties at the request of ICOMOS.

The ICOMOS World Heritage Panel includes…

  • The eight members of the Bureau of the ICOMOS Board, namely the President, the Secretary General, the Treasurer General and the five Vice-Presidents;
  • International experts, invited for their specific field of expertise. These are invited on an annual basis, according to the characteristics of the nominated properties to be examined.

The ICOMOS World Heritage Panel is supported by the attendance and active participation of:

  • ICOMOS advisors, who are responsible for studying the nomination and associated reports, drafting a preliminary evaluation for each dossier and presenting each of the dossiers to the Panel. Advisors are selected on the basis of World Heritage expertise, as well as a high level of international knowledge in particular professional disciplines.
  • Staff of the ICOMOS World Heritage Evaluation Unit, based at the ICOMOS International Secretariat in Paris.

Integrity

All cultural and natural properties must meet the fundamental condition of integrity in order to demonstrate their Outstanding Universal Value. It is a measure of the overall coherence and the wholeness and intactness of the property and its attributes.

The condition of integrity is further defined in the Operational Guidelines, paragraphs 87 to 95.

International assistance

International Assistance under the World Heritage Convention is granted to the States Parties to the World Heritage Convention, in order to help them protect the World Cultural or Natural Heritage located on their territories and inscribed on the World Heritage List, the List of World Heritage in Danger or on their Tentative List. (This text is based on the World Heritage Centre's website.)

This assistance is provided by the World Heritage Fund at the request of the States Parties. ICOMOS takes part in the evaluation of these requests in its capacity as advisory body, along with the World Heritage Centre and the World Heritage Committee. The latter allocates the funds for international assistance and gives priority to the most threatened sites.

All provisions relating to the World Heritage Fund and international assistance are described in section VII of the Operational Guidelines. The evaluation criteria for international assistance requests are given in Annex 9.

List of World Heritage in Danger

The World Heritage Committee may inscribe a World Heritage property on the List of World Heritage in Danger when…

  • the property is threatened by serious and specific danger;
  • major operations are necessary for the conservation of the property;
  • assistance under the Convention has been requested for the property by the concerned State Party, the World Heritage Committee or the World Heritage Centre.

The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to alert the international community to these situations in the hope that it can join efforts to save these endangered sites. It encourages the concerned State Party to implement emergency corrective measures and allows the World Heritage Committee to allocate immediate assistance from the World Heritage Fund to the endangered property. All efforts must be made to restore the site's values in order to enable its removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger as soon as possible. 

For more information on the List of World Heritage in Danger, see the World Heritage in Danger section on the World Heritage Centre's website.

Management system/management plan

Each World Heritage property must have an appropriate management plan or management system. This plan or system defines management arrangements for the protection of the attributes and features which are associated with or convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. It may incorporate traditional practices, existing urban or regional planning instruments, and other formal and informal planning control mechanisms.

For more information on management systems, consult paragraphs 108-118 of the Operational Guidelines.

Nomination dossier

The nomination dossier is the official document submitted to UNESCO by States Parties for the potential inscription of a property on the World Heritage List. This dossier is the basis for the evaluation of the property by the Advisory Bodies and subsequent decision by the World Heritage Committee whether or not to inscribe it on the World Heritage List. The purpose of the nomination dossier is to set out as clearly as possible:

  • what the property consists of and how it is documented;

  • why it has potential Outstanding Universal Value;

  • the state of conservation and the factors affecting the property; and

  • how the property is to be protected, conserved, managed, presented and monitored in relation to its potential Outstanding Universal Value.

For more information on the format and content of nomination dossiers, please refer to Annex 5 of the Operational Guidelines or to the Preparing World Heritage Nominations manual.

Outstanding Universal Value

Paragraph 49 of the Operational Guidelines defines Outstanding Universal Value as meaning "cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity." The World Heritage Committee considers that a property is of Outstanding Universal Value if it meets at least one of the ten criteria for selection. It must also meet the conditions of integrity and/or authenticity and must have an adequate protection and management system to ensure its safeguarding.

When deciding to inscribe a property on the World Heritage List, the Committee adopts a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property summarizing all the elements that justify inscription. This document will be a key reference for the future management and protection of the property.

Reactive monitoring

Reactive monitoring is a specific process for monitoring the state of conservation of World Heritage properties. It is defined as "the reporting by the Secretariat, other sectors of UNESCO and the Advisory Bodies to the Committee on the state of conservation of specific World Heritage properties that are under threat. To this end, the States Parties shall submit specific reports and impact studies each time exceptional circumstances occur or work is undertaken which may have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property or its state of conservation." (Operational Guidelines par. 169)

The World Heritage Centre’s website provides more information on reactive monitoring and state of conservation reports.

Referral of a nomination

Every year, the World Heritage Committee examines the properties nominated by States Parties for inscription on the World Heritage List. After the Committee takes note of the evaluations and recommendations made by the Advisory Bodies, it may decide to refer a nomination back to the State Party for additional information. This means the State Party can resubmit the nomination to the following Committee session, provided that it gives additional information necessary for the complete examination of the dossier.

A referred nomination which is not presented to the Committee within three years of the original Committee decision will be considered as a new nomination when it is resubmitted for examination.

For more information on the decisions of the World Heritage Committee, consult paragraphs 153-160 of the Operational Guidelines.

SOC report

State of conservation reports, or SOC reports, are prepared annually by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for the World Heritage Committee. They include information on the state of conservation of a number of endangered World Heritage properties and identify the dangers threatening the Outstanding Universal Value of these sites. Subsequently to the examination of a SOC report during its ordinary session, the World Heritage Committee adopts a decision. It may request the State Party to take necessary measures to safeguard the property, request a monitoring mission from the Advisory Bodies or inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. When there is evidence that the property has deteriorated to the point where it has irretrievably lost those characteristics which determined its inscription on the List, the Committee may decide to delete the property from the List.

The monitoring process for World Heritage sites is further explained of the World Heritage Centre's website.

State Party

States Parties are countries which have adhered to the World Heritage Convention. They thereby agree to identify and nominate properties on their national territory to be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List. When a State Party nominates a property, it gives details of how a property is protected and provides a management plan for its upkeep. States Parties are also expected to protect the World Heritage values of the properties inscribed and are encouraged to report periodically on their condition. (Text based on the World Heritage Centre's website).

Tentative List

A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination. States Parties are encouraged to submit their Tentative Lists, properties which they consider to be cultural and/or natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List. Nominations to the World Heritage List will not be considered unless the nominated property has already been included on the State Party's Tentative List. (Text based on the World Heritage Centre's website).

For more information on Tentative Lists, see paragraphs 62-76 of the Operational Guidelines.

Thematic study

ICOMOS undertakes comparative and thematic studies, often with partner organizations, in order to provide a synthesis of current research and knowledge on a specific theme and/or region. In particular, these studies provide State Parties wishing to submit a property for inscription on the World Heritage List with a framework to carry out comparative analyses.

UNESCO World Heritage Convention

The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, or World Heritage Convention, was adopted by UNESCO in 1972. It is dedicated to the identification, protection, presentation and transmission of cultural and natural heritage worldwide. To this end, properties deemed to be of Outstanding Universal Value are inscribed each year on the World Heritage List. Today, nearly 200 countries, known as States Parties, have ratified the Convention and pledged to protect the common heritage of humankind.

World Heritage Committee

The World Heritage Committee is the body responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It consists of representatives from 21 of the States Parties to the Convention elected by their General Assembly every two years. According to the World Heritage Convention, a Committee member's term of office is for six years, but most States Parties choose voluntarily to be Members of the Committee for only four years, in order to give other States Parties an opportunity to be on the Committee.

The Committee has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List. It examines reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties and asks States Parties to take action when properties are not properly managed. The annual session of the Committee is usually held in June or July. (This text is based on the World Heritage Centre's website.)

World Heritage Fund

The World Heritage Fund amounts to US$3 million annually to support activities decided by the World Heritage Committee, related to International Assistance, States of Conservation and Nominations. It includes compulsory and voluntary contributions from the States Parties, as well as from private donations. The World Heritage Committee allocates funds according to the urgency of requests, priority being given to the most threatened sites. (Text based on the World Heritage Centre's website)

The provisions relating to the World Heritage Fund and international assistance are described in section VII of the Operational Guidelines.



 

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