Тhe United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) encourages the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972. The most significant feature of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two. Bulgaria became a State Party to the Convention in 1974 and is one of the first 20 countries that signed it.
- Cultural heritage includes monuments, groups of buildings and sites, which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view.
- Natural heritage consists of physical, biological and geological features, habitats of threatened species of animals and plants and/or natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.
The natural and cultural properties of outstanding universal value are inscribed in the World Heritage List (WHL). Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. How does a World Heritage site differ from a national heritage site? The key lies in the words ‘outstanding universal value’. Sites selected for World Heritage listing are inscribed on the basis of their merits as the best possible examples of the cultural and natural heritage on the Earth. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.
Examples for World Heritage sites are: Venice and its Lagoon (Italy), Taj Mahal (India), The Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza (Mexico) as well as examples of intangible cultural heritage such as The Tango (Argentina), The Traditional Ainu dance (Japan) and The Bistritsa Babi – Archaic Polyphony, Dances and Rituals from the Shoplouk Region and The Nestinarstvo in Bulgaria.
The inscription of a site in the World Heritage List provides for a special status and protection, it is a source of a national pride as well as a great responsibility. The inscription brings an increase in public awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also increasing the tourist activities at the site. When these are well planned for and organized respecting sustainable tourism principles, they can bring important funds to the site and to the local economy. The State Parties may receive also financial support for the sites. In 1972 the World Heritage Fund has been created. Its purpose is to assist States Parties in identifying, preserving and promoting World Heritage sites.
The first step a country must take to include a site in the WHL is making an ‘inventory’ of its important natural and cultural heritage sites located within its boundaries. This ‘inventory’ is known as the Tentative List, and provides a forecast of the properties that a State Party considers of outstanding universal value and may decide to submit for inscription.
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