Problems faced by UNESCO heritage sites


This webquest is designed to teach students about the factors affecting the outstanding universal value of world heritage properties: housing, commercial development, industrial areas, major visitor accomodation and associated infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure, renewable energy facilities, pollution, biological resource use/modification, phisical resource extraction, social/cultural uses of heritage, climate change and severe weather events, sudden ecological or geological events, invasive species or hyperabundant species, management and institutional factors


Your task for this webquest is to collect information, use critical thinking skills, and discuss about the possible threats of UNESCO’s famous heritage site list.

The purpose of this webquest is not to test your knowledge, but to enhance your understanding of the dangers the European heritage sites are facing.


Step 1:

Watch the video which briefly explains the concept of "world heritage", then answer the three questions:

1. When was UNESCO founded?

a. 1954          b. 1945          c. 1854

2. When was the World Heritage Convention signed?

a. 1972          b. 1960          c. 1984

3. Who nominates a site to be included on the World Heritage List?

a. its country of origin          b. international experts          c. the World Heritage Committee


Step 2:

Heritage is unique and often times cannot be replaced if damaged or destroyed. Recent armed conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere have resulted in the destruction of many historical and archaeological treasures, some nearly 2,000 years old. These tangible heritage objects and places are now lost forever. People in the future will only be able to see them in pictures. Other threats to cultural and natural heritage sites include natural disasters, weather, erosion, pollution, deforestation and other human caused or natural events. In some cases, conservation efforts can restore heritage sites.

The video you are going to watch next was recorded last year and presents some UNESCO heritage sites in danger:

What do you think happened in the meantime? Were the sites saved from UNESCO delisting during the committee’s 44th meeting held in China in July?


Step 3:

Can you identify the threats to the heritage resources illustrated in each of these photos? Which of them are directly caused by humans?


Step 4: Grafitti - art or vandalism?

When you think of grafitti what's the first thing that comes to mind? Vandalism or street art? The teacher will divide you in 2 groups:

- the "art" group will have to find 2 - 3 arguments in favour of considering grafitti a form of street art. You can use the following website for inspiration:

- the "vandalism" group will have to argue against grafitti as a form of art, bringing arguments and examples to support their ideas. This website may be useful:

You have 10 minutes to check the website and build your case, then present your arguments to the other group.

What challenges and opportunities can grafitti bring to cultural heritage? 


Step 5:  

Work together in small groups to research one of the following UNESCO heritage sites:

A. Plitvice Lakes National Park

B. The Historic Centre of Sighisoara

C. Venice and its Lagoon

D. Teide National Park

E. Historic Areas of Istanbul

F. The Old Town of Corfu

Then, work on a short presentation about the site, focusing on the following aspects:
•    Name, location and significance of the site. Does the site represent natural or cultural heritage?
•    Identify two specific threats to the site. What would happen if the site was damaged or destroyed?
•    How would you manage the threats/challenges to the site? What action would you take?

You can use pictures to support your presentation, but make sure you keep it concise and engaging (2 - 3 minutes).


Levels of Performance:







1. Organization & Clarity: 

Main arguments and responses are outlined in a clear and orderly way.

Completely clear and orderly presentation

Mostly clear and orderly in all parts

Clear in some parts but not overall

Unclear and disorganized throughout


2. Use of Argument: 

Reasons are given to support the resolution

Very strong and persuasive arguments given throughout

Many good arguments given, with only minor problems

Some decent arguments, but some significant problems

Few or no real arguments given, or all arguments given had significant problems


3. Presentation Style: 

Tone of voice, clarity of expression, precision of arguments all contribute to keeping audience’s attention and persuading them of the team’s case.

All style features were used convincingly

Most style features were used convincingly

Few style features were used convincingly

Very few style features were used, none of them convincingly











Commercial hunting, illegal activities, extractive industries and civil unrest all have major impacts on World Heritage sites around the globe. According to a cumulative study of the results, the top threats include:

1.    Commercial hunting (illegal killing leading to illegal trade)

2.    Agricultural expansion

3.    Ground transport infrastructure expansion

4.    Illegal activities of all kinds

5.    Mining & quarrying

6.    War, civil unrest & military exercises

7.    Logging & wood harvesting

8.    Invasive/alien species

9.    Livestock farming & grazing of domesticated animals

10. Impacts of tourism & recreational activities

Even though damage to cultural property in conflict and natural disasters cannot be completely prevented, it can be limited. Proper preparations in peacetime, or acting in certain ways during and after conflict or emergencies, can mitigate some of the risks, limiting the damage. All of these preparations and activities, however, involve understanding the risks that heritage faces.


This webquest was created within the co-funded Erasmus plus KA229 partnership “Unique National and European Symbols of our Culture and Originality” (U.N.E.S.C.O.), project number 2020-1-RO01-KA229-080180.

Teacher Page

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.