UNESCO World Heritage Convention

The goal of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage is to preserve cultural and natural heritage of global outstanding value. The world natural heritage sites represent, for instance, outstanding and unique examples of stages of the Earth’s history, important ecological processes, natural areas of outstanding value from an aesthetic point of view or habitats of threatened species.

The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, also known as the World Heritage Convention, was adopted on 16 November 1972 by the UNESCO member states. To date, more than 190 countries have ratified the Convention. The goal of the World Heritage Convention is to preserve cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value as part of the world heritage of mankind for future generations. 

The World Heritage List - the best of our planet

The most important instrument of the Convention is the World Heritage List which includes over 1,000 properties. The intergovernmental World Heritage Committee set up by UNESCO decides every year which properties will be added to the World Heritage List.

Germany is currently represented with 40 properties on the World Heritage List, three of which are World Natural Heritage properties: the Wadden Sea (Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein), the Messel Pit Fossil Site (Hesse) and Germany’s Ancient Beech Forests (Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Thuringia).

Proposals for potential future world heritage nominations can be found on the tentative list for Germany.

Wadden Sea World Natural Heritage

At its 33rd session in June 2009, the World Heritage Committee awarded the Wadden Sea Dutch-German natural heritage site with a globally respected UNESCO World Heritage ranking. At that time, the World Natural Heritage property comprised the national parks of the Lower-Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea and a protected area in the Netherlands. In 2010, the existing World Heritage site was extended to include the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park following minor changes to the borders. In June 2014, the existing Wadden Sea World Natural Heritage property was enlarged to include the Danish part of the Wadden Sea and a seeward extension in Lower Saxony. This means that the entire Wadden Sea extending from Den Helder in the Netherlands through Germany as far as Esbjerg in Denmark has now been recognised as a World Natural Heritage property. The site covers an area of around 11,500 square kilometre along a coastal stretch of approximately 500 kilometre.

World Natural Heritage: Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Ancient Beech Forests of Germany

In June 2011, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee inscribed the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany into the UNESCO World Heritage List as an extension of the World Natural Heritage property "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians" (Slovakia/Ukraine). The Ancient Beech Forests of Germany site comprises sites in the national parks Jasmund and Müritz in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Hainich in Thuringia, Kellerwald-Edersee in Hesse and the Grumsin in the Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve in Brandenburg. Since then, there has been close trilateral cooperation between the participating countries to manage the joint World Natural Heritage property. UNESCO coupled the inscription with a request to extend the trilateral World Heritage property to include more beech forests in Europe. In February 2016, the nomination documents for component sites in 10 other countries were submitted to UNESCO.

Every contracting party to the Convention draws up a tentative list of potential sites to be considered for world heritage nominations.

World Heritage in Danger

Another instrument of the World Heritage Convention is the List of World Heritage in Danger. The list denotes World Heritage properties considered to be under serious threat and for the preservation of which special protective measures are required. The list currently contains around 50 properties.