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Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City

The World Heritage list

Since 1972, UNESCO has designated over 1000 places as World Heritage Sites and inscibed them onto the World Heritage List.

There are currently 1031 World Heritage Sites worldwide (July 2015) on the World Heritage List. 802 of these are cultural sites, 197 are natural sites and 32 are mixed sites, where the natural and cultural significance is shared. The sites on the world Heritage List are located in 163 countries. To date, 191 States Parties have ratified the 1972 UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of cultural and natural heritage (the World Heritage Convention).

World Heritage in Danger

As of July 2015, there were 48 sites on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. One of these is in the UK (Liverpool - Maritime Mercantile City). The List includes Sites that are in danger from natural threats (including erosion and natural disaster) and man-made threats (such as war, political change or poor management). The List of World Heritage in Danger aims to highlight the threats to these Sites and encourage special action to improve the situation.

Global Strategy - Balancing World Heritage

Whilst there are fewer natural sites in comparison to cultural sites, the territory covered by each natural site is, in general, much larger that that of cultural sites. However, the World Heritage Committee has been concerned almost since it began work by the difficulties of achieving an appropriate geographical and thematic balance in the World Heritage List and between natural and cultural heritage.

Western European countries, including the UK, are perceived as being well if not over-represented on the List. Over the years the Committee has provided assistance to under-represented countries and encouraged well-represented countries to slow down nominations. Since 2000 countries have been limited in how many nominations they can submit.

In 1994 the Committee agreed a global strategy on nominations which set very broad priorities. For cultural sites, the general priorities were human co-existence with the land, and human beings in society. ICOMOS and IUCN have both analysed the World Heritage List and produced gaps studies. The ICOMOS study does not identify specific cultural heritage priorities or provide direct guidance on specific types of heritage that should be nominated, but contains an important analysis of current representivity. The IUCN study identifies specific gaps in natural heritage sites. These provide clear priorities for nominations.  ICOMOS and IUCN also publish thematic studies of particular categories of heritage which provide useful guidance.

Nomination Process

Sites can only be nominated for inclusion on the World Heritage List by a national government. Once nominated, they are rigorously evaluated by either ICOMOS (for cultural sites) or IUCN (for natural sites) or both (for mixed sites and cultural landscapes). ICOMOS and IUCN recommend to the World Heritage Committee whether or not a site should be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Only the Committee can actually decide whether or not a site has Outstanding Universal Value and should be placed on the List.  Success is by no means assured and over the years several UK nominations have failed or had to be revised and re-submitted.

Before any site can be nominated it must first be on the national Tentative List. This is a list of places which a State Party considers that it might nominate over future years. Tentative Lists have to be formally submitted to UNESCO and are expected to be reviewed about once every ten years.

Tentative List

Following a review of World Heritage policy including the 1999 Tentative List of the United Kindom and Northen Ireland, the UK government, taking advice from an Expert Panel, published a new Tentative List in 2011 which listed 13 sites for potential nomination. In 2014, a further site was added to the UK Tentative List - Great Spas of Europe, a transnational candidate site which includes the City of Bath. This revised UK Tentative List was submitted to UNESCO in 2014. The Expert Panel's report explains the rationale for the selection of sites on the Tentative List.

Once candidate sites have been placed on the UK Tentative List, they are invited to put forward a more detailed case for nomination. These submissions are then subject to 'technical evaluation' by and expert panel chaired by the UK National Commission for UNESCO. Only those places that have put forwrad a robust and convincing case to meet the testing criteria for selection oin the World Heritage List will be formally submitted to UNESCO by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The next UK nomination to go forward to UNESCO will be the Lake District in 2016.


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