World Heritage designation can be a blessing or a curse (2023)

MOMBASA, Kenya — It's the story of three cities.

Just north of the Kenyan coast is the town of Lamu, its alleys buzzing with the sound of chisels and hammers making Swahili doors and donkeys carrying heavy loads of coral limestone. Locals and tourists alike flock to the zigzag alleyways, lined with shops selling everything from silver jewelry to body products made from local baobab trees.

Down the coast, in neighboring Tanzania, is Zanzibar's Stone Town, with its bustling fish market, where octopus and snapper depart daily from dhow boats and countless Polish, British, Italian and Mandarin travelers mingle in catch-'em-too -in- a monument near the site of the city's former slave market.

And between the two is Mombasa's historic center and, at the eastern end, Fort Jesus, an imposing 16th-century structure built by the Portuguese, with its multiple openings offering magnificent views of the Indian Ocean and gentle breezes that ward off the coastal heat.

But while those streets are also busy, here in Mombasa's historic center, the majority are locals, unlike the other two locations, where throngs of tourists flood the streets.

LamuAncient city,stone townde Zanzibar estrong jesusare all UNESCOWorld Heritage, comOld Town of Mombasaserves as a buffer zone, but Mombasa, unlike Lamu and Stone Town, is more of a stop on the way to the Swahili Coast, a stretch of coastline that stretches from Somalia to Mozambique. Thus, any expectations that locals might have had about tourism resulting from the transformation of Fort Jesus into a World Heritage Site were not met.

"We could be as good as Zanzibar, as good as Lamu for tourism," said Peter Tolle, a local historian who offers guided tours in French, English and German. “Local people don't want to talk about being a world heritage site anymore and feel they haven't changed. Our houses are miserable, we have money, but we can't fix them."

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"We are trapped by their rules, but there are no funds," he continued, referring to UNESCO regulations on what changes can and cannot be made at and near world heritage sites.

Lamu Town, Stone Town and Fort Jesus are examples of the criticisms made by conservation and tourism experts on the UNESCO World Heritage List - a list of natural landmarks or sites designated by the multilateral body as being of historical, scientific or cultural importance. These places include Machu Picchu, the historic center of Florence and the Taj Mahal.

They argue that being on the list can be a poisoned chalice of overtourism or undertourism. On the one hand, as suggested by Mr. Tolle, there is an expectation that the listing will somehow change the game for the community, bringing money not only from UNESCO, but also from investments focused on tourism and infrastructure projects. But Mike Robinson, professor of cultural heritage at Nottingham Trent University in England, noted in an interview that, in reality, "there is no money and it depends on donors."

In addition, the international agency was held responsible for what the Italian journalist Marco D'Eramo judgedUNESCOKTONIA, when he wrote that tipping over is a “kiss of death” and that “it often cures the disease by killing the patient”; that is, by recognizing that a place is worth protecting, UNESCO itself can lead to unsustainable levels of tourism.

Florence, Italy, where the Art for Tomorrow conference is taking place this week, became a World Heritage Site in 1982 and has long suffered from over-tourism. It is estimated that in 2019,15 million tourists— 20 times Florence's population of 708,000 — visited the city that is home to the Uffizi Galleries and Duomo di Firenze.

Appropriately, the theme of UNESCO sites will be explored at the conference. The annual event was funded by The New York Times and is now organized by the Foundation for Democracy and Culture, with panels moderated by Times journalists.

This discussion will contribute to the debate on listing, on the benefits of being listed, if in some places the tourism that the designation brings destroys the charm of a site, while in other cases listing brings unrealistic hopes of greater change.

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A History of Conservation

The idea for the UNESCO World Heritage List, which already has 1,157 sites, came from a project to save Nubian monuments, which includeAbu Simbel, the site of two temples carved into a sandstone cliff in Egypt's Nubian Valley in the 13th century BC. In the 1950s, local engineers planned to build a dam along a section of the Nile River for flood control and power generation.

However, the dam would have flooded the valley and submerged hundreds of ancient monuments, so the governments of Egypt and Sudan turned to UNESCO for help. The resulting project, during which Abu Simbel was moved, in pieces, to a higher altitude, helped trigger the 1972Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, who created the heritage list.

Interestingly, tourism was mentioned only once in the document resulting from this convention, in relation to the threat it could pose to sites.

"But, of course, we didn't have the scale of international tourism," said Professor Robinson, a UNESCO consultant on sustainable tourism who recognizes that tourism - in itself - need not always be harmful. . “Time has passed, we need to update it to say that tourism is not just a threat, it is also a valuable opportunity”.

It is difficult to estimate the direct economic impact of becoming a World Heritage Site. For example, Dubrovnik, Croatia makes the list, but the city's tourist influx is likely also related to its role as a "Game of Thrones" filming location.

However, a 2015 report by the UK National Commission for UNESCO found that UNESCO projects in Scotlandgenerated approximately GBP 10.8 million(or $13.4 million) from 2014 to 2015 via its link to the equity listing.

This means that some countries, often in the developing world, want their sites listed. Professor Robinson said this is partly because member states "see it as a way to boost tourism" and therefore "the incentive has shifted from protecting the site to developing it".

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UNESCO looks ahead

There were comments that a change in who sits in theWorld Heritage Committee— a group of representatives from 21 countries who have the final say on which sites are added to the list — has led to the politicization of the list.

“You are getting parts advancing towards the application of thisthe advisory bodiesthey recommended that we not proceed because care is not being implemented properly,” said Susan MacDonald, head of buildings and sites at the Getty Conservation Institute. "When these locations are listed, when they clearly don't have the right systems, policies and procedures in place, there's always a problem."

He added, however, that nearly 50 percent of the heritage sites are in Europe and North America, so there is a feeling the list needs to be more representative.

UNESCO suggests that World Heritage Committee representatives be specialists in conservation and preservation, but leaves the final choice to the countries themselves. "Then you started shifting from a fully experienced body to one that was kind of a mix," MacDonald said. "And when that happens, you start lobbying."

What is often not well articulated in local communities is that when places – which include cultural sites like the Vietnamese city of Hoi An and natural sites like Yellowstone National Park – are listed, it is the responsibility of local and national governments in those countries. to take care of everything from site maintenance and marketing to controlling the number of tourists that visit.

"Once a site is inscribed, it is first the responsibility of the government of the country where the site is located to take all measures to protect it," said Lazare Eloundou Assomo, director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. keep the list.

So, while UNESCO helps countriessustainable tourism developmentpractices and advice, listing does not automatically equate to solutions in terms of community conservation or development and investment.

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"When you put something on the World Heritage List, it's not like the UNESCO police suddenly start showing up," joked Joseph King, senior director of the UNESCO Director-General's Office.International Center for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, who in the 1980s and 1990s was a consultant for UNESCO. “You'd be surprised how many people actually think this is happening, 'Why doesn't UNESCO stop this from happening?'

People like Mr. Tolle, the tour guide in Mombasa, find the whole process cumbersome and bureaucratic and often don't understand what it means to become a website for their communities. "They listen and understand that it's like the goose that lays the golden eggs," MacDonald said. "Sometimes it doesn't fall to them unless governments have been careful to put systems and practices in place that empower local communities to manage the place."

Covid has dramatized this point in places like Ethiopialower omo valley, an area that was listed in 1980. Before 2020, and the beginning of the pandemic and war in the north of the country, small remote villages like Dildi received around 15 tourists a day and the villages depended on the extra money. But now, according to local Morsi chief Baradi Birabi, visitors have dried up.

"With tourist money, we could buy medicine for our people or our livestock," he said, as one of the locals tried to sell a clay dish to a lone Israeli tourist. "But now we have to sell the cattle, so hopefully the tourists will come back."

That's a problem UNESCO is trying to address, including a visitor flow management tool that will roll out to all sites by 2029, Peter DeBrine, who works on UNESCO's sustainable tourism program, wrote in an email.

“Tourism can bring economic benefits to local communities and raise awareness of the importance of preserving cultural heritage, but it can also have negative impacts on sites, such as overcrowding, social changes, damage to fragile ecosystems and degradation of cultural monuments”, he added. . . “That is why UNESCO has strengthened its responses and tools in this area and is committed to the development of sustainable tourism.”

the publicationWorld Heritage designation can be a blessing or a curseappeared first onNew York Times.

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What is the benefit of World Heritage designation? ›

The benefits of visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites include gaining a deeper understanding of where we came from, broadening your concept of culture, and experiencing the most incredible geology this planet has to offer.

What does it mean to be listed as World Heritage in danger? ›

The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.

Why is the World Heritage List criticized? ›

Criticism has grown over the years, with researchers, conservationists and human rights activists saying that the process is marred by bureaucratic wrangling and underhand deals between the committee and governments.

What conditions are associated with the World heritage Title? ›

World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance. The sites are judged to contain "cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity".

What are the disadvantages of having a World Heritage Site? ›

These are some of the harmful effects:
  • An increase in population, visitors and tourists. ...
  • Potential for neglect of the cultural-historical traditions, and natural environment. ...
  • For visitors, tourists, and even for the local residents what was an exceptional heritage can become quotidian, and common.
Jul 27, 2022

What are the benefits of heritage impact assessment? ›

It is a core part of the design process, which tests whether your proposals for change to a historic asset are appropriate by assessing their impact on its significance. It helps to ensure that what is important about your historic asset is sustained or even enhanced when you make any changes.

What does it mean to be declared a World Heritage Site? ›

A World Heritage Site is a natural or cultural site that demonstrates influence or significance in a global context (i.e., has “Outstanding Universal Value”), and has been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee.

What does it mean when a place becomes a World Heritage Site? ›

Places are only added to the World Heritage List after an independent assessment can demonstrate it represents the most outstanding of the world's natural and/or cultural heritage. The decision about which places are added to the World Heritage list is made by the International UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

What is protection of World Heritage? ›

The World Heritage Convention was adopted in 1972 by the General Conference of UNESCO. It promotes an international perspective on cultural heritage by inviting member states to submit an inventory of properties forming its national cultural and natural heritage to be included in a list of World Heritage sites.

What World Heritage sites have been destroyed? ›

Destroyed heritage sites include the old town in Dinghai, the old town of Laoximen in Shanghai, a centuries-old market street in Qianmen, and a section of the Great Wall of China. Historical neighborhoods of Beijing and Nanjing were also razed.

Who controls World Heritage sites? ›

Most U.S. World Heritage Sites are administered by the National Park Service.

Who recognizes World Heritage sites? ›

Unesco Recognizes Heritage Sites, Ancient to Modern, Around the World.

What are the 7 heritage of the world? ›

The Seven Wonders of the World are the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, the Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer, Petra, and the Great Wall of China.

What are the three types of heritage? ›

The three elements used to describe historic heritage are Fabric, Stories and Culture. One or all of these things make up the historic heritage of a place.

What are the issues relating to heritage? ›

The most widely known problems of cultural heritage include archaeological looting, destruction of cultural sites, and the theft of works of art from churches and museums all over the world are testimonies of cultural heritage destructions [15].

What are the weakness of heritage tourism? ›

Weaknesses are coordination problem, lack of professionals, sufficient budget problem, and lack of concern form UNESCO. Opportunities are government attention, to be pride, foreign exchange, developing awareness. Threats are carrying capacity problem, globalization, dependency on tourism, political instability.

What are the risks to cultural heritage? ›

Types of risks to our cultural heritage vary from sudden and catastrophic events (such as major earthquakes, floods, fires, and armed conflict) to gradual and cumulative processes (such as chemical, physical, or biological degradation).

Are World Heritage sites protected? ›

World Heritage status commits the home nation to protect the designated location. And if a site—through natural disaster, war, pollution, or lack of funds—begins to lose its value, nations that have signed the treaty must assist, if possible, in emergency aid campaigns.

How much does a heritage impact statement cost? ›

Depending on the simplicity or complexity of the proposed development, adequate heritage impact assessment could be carried out anywhere between a $300 single page letter of opinion and full-blown $30,000 report.

What is a heritage impact statement? ›

A heritage impact statement (HIS) describes and evaluates the likely impact of a proposal. An HIS is a clear and concise account of the proposed. work that addresses three basic questions: ■ How will the proposed works affect the significance of the place or area?

What is heritage impact? ›

A Heritage Statement sometimes referred to as a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) is a document that outlines the historic or archaeological significance of a building or landscape within its wider setting.

How do you qualify to be listed as a World Heritage Site? ›

Selection criteria
  1. to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
  2. to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
Oct 3, 2021

What country has the most Unesco World Heritage sites? ›

Italy is home to the largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites in the world. After the annual announcement of new sites by the UNESCO committee, the country now boasts 58 world heritage locations.

What is heritage and why is it important? ›

Heritage is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture. Most important, it is the range of contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviors that we draw from them. Heritage includes, but is much more than preserving, excavating, displaying, or restoring a collection of old things.

What is the meaning of outstanding universal value? ›

“Outstanding Universal Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.

What are different types of heritage? ›

Cultural heritage
  • Archaeological site. An archaeological site is an area/place that is associated with past human activities. ...
  • Art, crafts literature and music. ...
  • Dark heritage. ...
  • Gastronomy. ...
  • Geological heritage. ...
  • Historic city centre. ...
  • Industrial heritage. ...
  • Living cultures.

What are the examples of heritage? ›

Examples of cultural heritage include tangible assets such as visual art, food, clothing, and styles of architecture along with intangible assets such as legends, music, and values like generosity or respect.

What is heritage stewardship? ›

A scheme to support staff in local authorities, state agencies and third level institutions with responsibilities for heritage programmes, e.g., stewardship of and access to collections, archives, buildings, monuments, habitats. Heritage Stewardship Fund. 2022. Page 2. 2.

Who funds World Heritage? ›

Financial resources

The resources of the World Heritage Fund consist primarily of assessed contributions paid by the States Parties, i.e. the countries which have ratified the World Heritage Convention.

Who protects the United States cultural heritage? ›

As the leading national steward of America's federal lands, wildlife, and historic sites, the U.S. Department of theInterior has the responsibility to help preserve and maintain these legacies for the benefit of present and future generations.

What is the largest World Heritage Site in the world? ›

You'll love the legacy of the ancient city of Cordoba. There is so much of Cordoba's past to experience. If you're passionate about history and art then prepare yourself for a second visit.

Which countries have no World Heritage sites? ›

Of the 194 state parties of the World Heritage Convention, 27 have no properties inscribed on the World Heritage List: The Bahamas, Bhutan, Brunei, Burundi, Comoros, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Kuwait, Liberia, Maldives, Monaco, Niue, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and ...

What is the oldest World Heritage Site? ›

This is a list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world by year of inscription, selected during the annual sessions of the World Heritage Committee. The first World Heritage Site in the list is the Galápagos Islands.

Why is Yellowstone National Park a World Heritage Site? ›

The United Nations designated Yellowstone National Park as a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve in recognition of the worldwide significance of its natural and cultural resources.

Who owns the heritage site? ›

The site is the property of the country on whose territory it is located, but it is considered in the interest of the international community to protect the site for future generations.

Which continent has the most World Heritage sites? ›

Overall, Europe is home to 503 world heritage sites of either cultural, natural or mixed importance.

Which state has the most World Heritage sites? ›

Currently, Maharashtra has total five Unesco World Heritage Sites and this number is highest among all states and UTs in India. The sites include Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Elephanta Caves, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings of South Mumbai.

How many World Heritage Sites are there in the US? ›

There are 24 World Heritage Sites in the United States; 21 are single location sites, and 3 are multi-part sites encompassing several locations (the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings are in blue).

What are the criticism of UNESCO? ›

Much of the criticism aimed at UNESCO is focused on its over-bureaucratic structure and poor productivity. This criticism is largely fed by the attention placed on what happens at headquarters in Paris, not at the field offices in places like New Delhi, Jakarta and Maputo.

What is the youngest World Heritage Site? ›

Opened in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is a masterpiece of modern architecture and one of the world's most recognisable buildings – and the youngest cultural site ever to be included on the World Heritage list.

Which country has 35 World Heritage sites? ›

A mix of nature and culture mean Mexico has been awarded 35 UNESCO World Heritage Site listings, the highest number in the Americas and the 7th in the world.

What makes a world heritage? ›

World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are of outstanding universal value to humanity and as such, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

What are the two 2 types of heritage? ›

The “World Heritage Convention” classifies the world heritage of humankind into two categories, 'cultural heritage' and 'natural heritage', clearly indicated in the title of the convention.

What are the 5 types of heritage? ›

Such centers could cover all forms of heritage or be specialized in particular types of heritage: natural, cultural, tangible, intangible, or movable heritage.

How many World Heritage are there? ›

Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.
Number of World Heritage Properties by region.
5 more columns

How does heritage affect identity? ›

Heritage is a person's unique, inherited sense of family identity: the values, traditions, culture, and artifacts handed down by previous generations. We absorb a sense of our heritage throughout our lives as we observe and experience the things that make our family unique.

What are the 4 main aspects of cultural heritage? ›

Cultural heritage includes tangible culture (such as buildings, monuments, landscapes, archive materials, books, works of art, and artifacts), intangible culture (such as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge), and natural heritage (including culturally significant landscapes, and biodiversity).

What conditions are associated with the World Heritage Title? ›

World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance. The sites are judged to contain "cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity".

What is designated as a World Heritage Site? ›

A World Heritage Site (WHS) is a site that has been inscribed by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) on its World Heritage List. In order to qualify, it must be of outstanding universal cultural or natural value (or both).

What is nomination for World Heritage? ›

A World Heritage nomination is, in essence, the official application form for World Heritage status. It is an official document that is submitted to UNESCO by the relevant State Party (or two or more States Parties in the case of transnational nominations).

What is the purpose of heritage management? ›

The cultural heritage management is the measure aimed at ensuring the viability, identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission as well as revitalization of cultural heritage.

What are the benefits of cultural heritage conservation? ›

7 Ways Heritage Preservation Can Contribute to Sustainable Urban Development
  • 1) Resisting Cultural Homogenization. ...
  • 2) Preserving Climate Responsive Buildings. ...
  • 3) Incubating Local Traditions & Values. ...
  • 4) Strengthening Community Inclusion & Intergenerational Equity. ...
  • 5) Conserving Resources & Reducing Waste.

What are the 3 types of heritage? ›

The three elements used to describe historic heritage are Fabric, Stories and Culture. One or all of these things make up the historic heritage of a place.

How do you honor heritage? ›

What You Can Do to Honor Your Heritage. For many people, the most meaningful way to honor their heritage is to include elements of it in their own lives. They live the positive values they were taught and pass them on to others. They may choose activities or traditions that help them feel connected to their loved ones.

What is the difference between nomination and beneficiary? ›

A nominee is a person who holds the property of the deceased until he has to distribute this property to the legal heirs. In a life insurance policy, the beneficiary is an individual you have to nominate to receive the policy proceeds after an unfortunate incident occurs.

What is heritage promotion? ›

The Programme is responsible for the identification, collection, safeguarding, promotions and transformation of the South African heritage, archives, heraldry and libraries.

What is the responsibility of heritage? ›

Fundamental Duty: Article 51A of Constitution states that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to value and preserve the rich heritage of our culture.

What criteria are important in Heritage management? ›

The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations. Since 1992 significant interactions between people and the natural environment have been recognized as cultural landscapes.

What is an example of a heritage? ›

Examples of cultural heritage include tangible assets such as visual art, food, clothing, and styles of architecture along with intangible assets such as legends, music, and values like generosity or respect.

What is cultural heritage in simple words? ›

Cultural heritage can be defined as the legacy of physical artifacts (cultural property) and intangible attributes of a group or society inherited from the past. Cultural Heritage is a concept which offers a bridge between the past and the future with the application of particular approaches in the present.

What is the purpose of heritage conservation? ›

To benefit present and future generations; To manage alterations, development, redevelopment, construction, and demolition in order to retain the heritage value of the area; To promote conservation, restoration, rehabilitation, and renovation; To maintain character of area (e.g. layout, features);

Why is cultural benefits important? ›

Diverse cultural perspectives can inspire creativity and drive innovation. Local market knowledge and insight makes a business more competitive and profitable. Cultural sensitivity, insight, and local knowledge means higher quality, targeted marketing.


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