What is a World Heritage Site?

In the beginning, there was the United Nations: “an intergovernmental organization to promote international co-operation and to create and maintain international order… At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.” This is the generally agreed on minimum answer to the question “How many countries are there in the world?” as it’s pretty hard for anyone to argue that you aren’t, or shouldn’t be, a sovereign nation if all the popular kids let you join their club. There are many other entities of varying political, legal, cultural, and so on distinctiveness; how other places that keep travel scorecards come up with the various different numbers they come up with, we’ll go through those in various posts later. For now, we’ll simply observe that the number 193 is immediately contradicted by…

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a UN agency whose purpose is “to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.” And while the UN has 193 members, UNESCO has 195 member states and 9 associate members:

Three UNESCO member states are not UN member statesCook IslandsNiue, and Palestine (Palestine is a non-member observer State of the United Nations General Assembly since November 29, 2012), while one UN member state (Liechtenstein) is not a UNESCO member. Kosovo was approved for membership by UNESCO’s executive board in 2015, but the proposal did not receive the required 2/3 of votes in favour at the general conference…

You can see how complicated this country-counting thing gets. But around here, we sidestep all those thorny questions by defining our scorecard purely in terms of the lists submitted to and selected by the…

World Heritage Committee, which consists of 21 representatives from member nations and “is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties. It 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 being properly managed. It also decides on the inscription or deletion of properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger.” The important part of that for our purposes is the bit about inscribing. The way this list goes, each member state puts forward suggestions for sites to be inscribed — these are called the Tentative Lists, and as we write there are 1704 sites from 176 states listed there — and from those lists sites are Nominated for consideration at the annual Session of the Committee, which this year’s is the 41st and held in Krakow Poland 2-12 July — at which each year new properties are selected to be added to The Official World Heritage List. As we write that numbers 1052 properties, with 2 having been delisted because of failure to protect them adequately.

It is the contention of Your Gracious Host that rather than the typical travel scorecards that go by political divisions plus whatever other criteria the scorekeepers see fit to include, and the endless wrangling over definitions and so forth that go with that, you should consider adopting these lists as your travel scorecard. The main inscribed list because that’s the things that are considered by a generous cross-section of world opinion to be significant to mankind as a whole; and the Tentative Lists because that’s what individual member states feel is most important within their own jurisdictions and would like to be recognized for by the rest of the world. Truly, is that not a better method of judging how much one has actually educated oneself about mankind and its world than simply counting passport stamps? Yes, yes it is. If you agree too, keep following everywhs.com for news, reviews, tips, and community!


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  1. […] in our last post, What is a World Heritage Site?, we mentioned ”typical travel scorecards” that count political and/or geographic divisions of […]

  2. […] Step One: Decide what your unique approach will be There has to be some reason for people to visit your site and keep coming back — and ideally, a reason that doesn’t have a lot of competition. In our particular case, that reason is to find out about visiting World Heritage Sites. […]

  3. […] of their members that approves additions to The Official World Heritage List, as we discussed in What is a World Heritage Site? and the official list of sites and an interactive map to explore them can be found […]

  4. […] UN General Assembly but not a signatory to UNESCO, which makes it a glaringly obvious rejoinder to our assertion that the number of “countries” in the world is defined by “UNESCO […]

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