Protecting and Preserving Something Unique
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention
The "Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage" (World Heritage Convention) was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972. The idea behind this Convention is "... that parts of the cultural or natural heritage are of outstanding interest and therefore need to be preserved as part of the world heritage as a whole". It is the most important tool ever adopted by the international community to protect its cultural and natural heritage. To date, 193 states have ratified the Convention, including Germany in 1976.
World Natural Heritage is defined as unique natural phenomena, and World Cultural Heritage as unique human cultural achievements. These unique sites are listed in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. This list currently includes 1,092 sites from 167 countries. The spectrum ranges from natural landscapes and geological formations to cultural landscapes and cultural assets. Of these World Heritage Sites, 44 are in Germany (as of October 2018). The prerequisites for their inscription on the World Heritage List are above all their outstanding universal value, their integrity and the guarantee of their protection. Those who have made it onto the World Heritage List thus receive a kind of seal of approval of the World Heritage Convention.
On several occasions, UNESCO has defined the concept of "outstanding universal value" more precisely by formulating ten criteria since 1976, one or more of which a World Heritage site must meet. In addition, a site must be "intact" and "authentic" so that its original substance, history and exemplary nature are and remain recognisable. When States Parties apply for the inscription of World Heritage sites within their borders, they recognise the global significance of these sites and commit themselves to their preservation.
The decision to inscribe a site on the World Heritage List is taken by the World Heritage Committee. However, before this can happen, the relevant State Party must submit a proposal for inclusion on the so-called Tentative List. Being on the Tentative List is therefore mandatory in order to be able to prepare an application for the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In Germany, the Kultusministerkonferenz (Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs) decides on the composition of the Tentative List. The most recent List was adopted on 12 June 2014; since 2016, the annual nominations from the federal states have been successively processed. Hesse had applied with the Artists' Colony Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, with the university town of Marburg, and with the spa town of Wiesbaden. The "Darmstadt Artists’ Colony Mathildenhöhe" was included in the new Tentative List and a decision on its inclusion in the World Heritage List is planned for 2020.
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