World heritage bid flinders ranges large
World heritage bid flinders ranges large

10 facts about World Heritage

30 Nov. 2023 5 min read

You might have heard that South Australia is working on a World Heritage nomination for parts of the Flinders Ranges, including our new Nilpena Ediacara National Park.

But what exactly is World Heritage and why is it so important?

We’ve broken it down with 10 facts about World Heritage:

1. World Heritage is overseen by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Founded in 1945, it’s a specialised agency within the United Nations that aims to contribute to peace and security by promoting cooperation in education, sciences, culture, communication and information.

2. There’s a UN Convention for World Heritage.

It’s called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (or the World Heritage Convention for short) and it’s a document that sets out what kind of sites can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List.

3. There are 195 countries that have ratified (accepted) the convention.

Known as “States Parties”, these countries have agreed to identify and nominate places to be considered for World Heritage and are expected to protect the World Heritage values of any locations that are inscribed on the list. Of the 195 countries, 168 have a World Heritage site listed.

4. The World Heritage Convention came about in response to an international mission to save the Monuments of Nubia.

A dam was planned for construction in Egypt to help control the annual flooding of the Nile and generate hydroelectric power to support the country’s modernisation, however, it would have seen the archeologically significant sites submerged under water.

UNESCO was asked for help to protect these important sites, and in response an international campaign was coordinated that saw experts from around the world cooperate to help dismantle and relocate the temples, monuments and artefacts to other locations.

The project helped to make the world aware of the need to protect sites of universal value and so the World Heritage Convention was born.

5. World Heritage sites can be nominated for cultural or natural values (or both).

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria that outline the cultural or natural values the site must meet.

You can find out more about the 10 World Heritage criteria on the UNESCO website.

6. Getting a site inscribed on the World Heritage List isn’t as simple as just asking UNESCO.

Countries each have to keep a “tentative list” of sites they want to nominate for inscription on the list and a site has to be on that list for at least a year before it can be formally nominated. Once a site has been nominated, the process to assess whether it’s worthy of World Heritage status takes around 18 months.

Part of the nomination process includes preparing a dossier, which is a complex and long document that describes the site(s) and its history, presents an argument to justify its inscription in the World Heritage, explains how the site is currently conserved but also how it will be protected and managed in the years to come.

There’s a lot of detailed research involved and the dossier can be hundreds of pages long!

In short, it takes years to prepare, submit and assess a site for World Heritage status.

7. Who decides if a World Heritage nomination will be accepted?

World Heritage nominations get submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and are evaluated by IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature), who then will provide a recommendation to the World Heritage Committee.

The assessment process takes around 18 months.

8. While it’s a lot of work, the benefits of a World Heritage listing are worth it.

World Heritage encourages the preservation of our heritage sites and helps share these significant places with the world. World Heritage can lead to better management and protection of sites, and there are also economic benefits to the local areas through increased public interest and tourism.

9. As of 2023, Australia has 20 World Heritage sites inscribed.

Of these, South Australia shares one with Queensland – the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites of Riversleigh and Naracoorte Caves. The site was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994 in recognition that the two included locations contains some of the most important fossil sites in the world.

Riversleigh and Naracoorte are in good company with many famous landmarks recognised on the World Heritage list, including the Sydney Opera House!

10. South Australia is developing a bid for Flinders Ranges.

It’s hoped that the Naracoorte Caves won’t be our only World Heritage listing for too much longer. South Australia has been working on a World Heritage listing for areas of the Flinders Ranges that include:

  • Areas on 3 national parks on public land: Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park and Nilpena Ediacara National Park.
  • Areas on four pastoral properties.

The Flinders Ranges World Heritage bid has been worked on for over 6 years and is in the final stages before it’s ready to go to the World Heritage Centre.

You can also show your support for the Flinders Ranges World Heritage bid by using the hashtag #WorldHeritageForTheFlindersRanges on social media.

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