During the first half of the last century, many historical towns, monuments and buildings were destroyed or damaged by two world wars. In response to this destruction, the League of Nations, which later became the United Nations, appealed for worldwide cooperation in protecting cultural heritage. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established in 1945 in part to accomplish this task.
The World Heritage Convention is an international agreement was adopted in 1972. It works to protect both natural and cultural heritage (tangible heritage) threatened by population, urbanization, pollution, deforestation and excessive tourism. Over 150 countries have signed the Convention and there are now some 1000+ recognized World Heritage Sites.
The inscription of a site in the World Heritage List is a long process requiring many steps. The first step is to sign the Convention and become a State Party. Then a country develops a Tentative List of natural and cultural sites that they deem worthy of recognition as a World Heritage Site and which they intend to nominate. A country can annually submit up to two nominations of sites on their Tentative List to a 21-nation committee comprised of World Heritage signatories. Once a year, this committee determines if the site satisfies at least one of the 10 selection criteria, is properly managed, and has strong legal protection so that its preservation is assured. . Two advisory bodies of technical experts (one for natural sites, another for cultural sites) review the nominations and make recommendations to the committee. If a property is believed to meet the requirements, then the committee moves to include the site on the World Heritage List.