UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) established in 1945 with the mission of promoting international collaboration in the fields of education, science, culture, and communication.
Key points about UNESCO
Objectives: UNESCO’s primary objectives include fostering peace and security through education, scientific advancement, cultural preservation, and intercultural dialogue.
Education: UNESCO focuses on improving access to quality education for all, promoting lifelong learning opportunities, and advancing educational policies worldwide.
Science: It supports scientific research, encourages international cooperation in scientific endeavors, and aims to harness science for sustainable development.
Culture: UNESCO works to preserve cultural heritage, safeguard cultural diversity, and promote the arts, literature, and heritage conservation.
World Heritage Sites: One of UNESCO’s significant initiatives is the designation of World Heritage Sites, which are cultural or natural landmarks deemed to have exceptional universal value and are protected for future generations.
Intercultural Dialogue: It promotes intercultural understanding and respect, emphasizing the importance of cultural exchange and dialogue in fostering peace and sustainable development.
Media and Information Literacy: UNESCO advocates for media literacy, aiming to empower individuals to critically engage with media content and information.
International Cooperation: UNESCO fosters collaboration among member states, international organizations, and civil society to address global challenges in education, science, culture, and communication.
UNESCO’s Role in Advocacy: It serves as a platform for raising awareness, advocating for policies, and setting standards in its fields of competence.
UNESCO’s initiatives, programs, and designations, such as World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves, and Intangible Cultural Heritage listings, play a crucial role in preserving and celebrating the world’s cultural and natural heritage while promoting global cooperation and understanding.
How Are UNESCO Sites Selected?
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are selected based on strict criteria that emphasize the outstanding universal value of a cultural or natural site. The selection process involves several stages:
- Nomination: The process begins with a country nominating a site from its territory for inclusion on the World Heritage List. The nomination is submitted to the country’s National Commission for UNESCO or the equivalent authority.
- Tentative List: Before formally nominating a site, countries often place it on a Tentative List. This step allows the country to prepare and develop a strong nomination dossier while receiving feedback and guidance from UNESCO experts.
- Evaluation by UNESCO Advisory Bodies: Once a nomination is submitted, UNESCO’s advisory bodies, primarily the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) for cultural sites and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for natural sites, conduct a comprehensive evaluation.
- Criteria for Selection: Sites are evaluated against specific criteria for cultural and natural properties outlined by UNESCO. These criteria emphasize the site’s exceptional value, integrity, authenticity, and significance on a global scale.
- Cultural Criteria (i.e., representing human creative genius, exhibiting cultural interchange, or bearing exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition)
- Natural Criteria (i.e., outstanding natural beauty, exceptional biodiversity, geological significance, or representing ongoing ecological processes)
- Recommendation to the World Heritage Committee: The advisory bodies submit their evaluation reports and recommendations to the World Heritage Committee, a body composed of representatives from different member states.
- Decision by the World Heritage Committee: The World Heritage Committee reviews the evaluations, considers the recommendations, and makes the final decision on whether to inscribe the site on the World Heritage List during its annual sessions.
- Inscription on the World Heritage List: If approved, the site is officially inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, gaining international recognition and protection. UNESCO encourages the preservation and sustainable management of these sites for future generations.
The process of selecting World Heritage Sites is thorough and aims to ensure that inscribed properties possess exceptional value and merit preservation for their cultural or natural significance at a global level.