World Heritage


Rock Islands Southern Lagoon World Heritage site Palau ©IUCN/Jerker Tamelander

Natural World Heritage sites are globally recognised as the world’s most significant protected areas

At the centre of the World Heritage Convention lies the idea that some places are so valuable to humanity, it is our collective responsibility to protect and pass them on to future generations. Established in 1972, it is the only international conservation instrument that explicitly links nature and culture, recognising the complex interactions between mankind and the environment. IUCN co-drafted the World Heritage Convention with UNESCO and has been involved as the official Advisory Body on nature from the onset.

The World Heritage List now includes more than 1000 sites, with about 20% which are listed for their natural ‘Outstanding Universal Value’. Natural World Heritage sites include iconic places such as the Galapagos Islands, Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Yellowstone, the Great Barrier Reef and Ha Long Bay.

The identification of these sites through the World Heritage Convention is a direct response to the need to preserve and restore globally outstanding protected areas based on criteria that include scale of natural habitats, intactness of ecological processes, viability of populations of rare species, and rarity, not to mention aesthetic appeal which almost always accompanies these natural wonders.

The Convention provides a unique platform for developing and sharing best-practice, and can act as a barometer of global protected area performance.

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