World Heritage Committee

The World Heritage Committee is a committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.[1] It comprises representatives from 21 state parties[2][1] that are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.[3] These parties vote on decisions and proposals related to the World Heritage Convention and World Heritage List.

Logo of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee

According to the World Heritage Convention, a committee member's term of office is six years. However many States Parties choose to voluntarily limit their term to four years, in order to give other States Parties an opportunity to serve.[3] All members elected at the 15th General Assembly (2005) voluntarily chose to reduce their term of office from six to four years.[3]

Deliberations of the World Heritage Committee are aided by three advisory bodies, the IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM.[4][5]


The World Heritage Committee meets once a year for an ordinary session to discuss the management of existing World Heritage Sites, and accept nominations by countries.[3] Extraordinary meetings can be convened at the request of two-thirds of the state members.[6] Meetings are held within the territory of state members of the World Heritage Committee at their invitation. Rotation between regions and cultures is a consideration for selection and the location for the next session is chosen by the committee at the end of each session.[6]

Session[7] Year Date Host city
1 1977 27 June–1 July Paris
2 1978 5 September–8 September Washington, D.C.
3 1979 22 October–26 October Cairo & Luxor
4 1980 1 September–5 September Paris
5 1981 26 October–30 October Sydney
6 1982 13 December–17 December Paris
7 1983 5 December–9 December Florence
8 1984 29 October–2 November Buenos Aires
9 1985 2 December–6 December Paris
10 1986 24 November–28 November Paris
11 1987 7 December–11 December Paris
12 1988 5 December–9 December Brasília
13 1989 11 December–15 December Paris
14 1990 7 December–12 December Banff
15 1991 9 December–13 December Carthage
16 1992 7 December–14 December Santa Fe
17 1993 6 December–11 December Cartagena
18 1994 12 December–17 December Phuket
19 1995 4 December–9 December Berlin
20 1996 2 December–7 December Mérida
21 1997 1 December–6 December Naples
22 1998 30 November–5 December Kyoto
23 1999 29 November–4 December Marrakech
24 2000 27 November–2 December Cairns
25 2001 11 December–16 December Helsinki
26 2002 24 June–29 June Budapest
27 2003 30 June–5 July Paris
28 2004 28 June–7 July Suzhou
29 2005 10 July–17 July Durban
30 2006 8 July–16 July Vilnius
31 2007 23 June–1 July Christchurch
32 2008 2 July–10 July Quebec City
33 2009 22 June–30 June Seville
34 2010 25 July–3 August Brasília
35 2011 19 June–29 June Paris
36 2012 25 June–5 July Saint Petersburg
37 2013 17 June–27 June Phnom Penh
38 2014 15 June–25 June Doha
39 2015 28 June–8 July Bonn
40 2016 10 July–20 July Istanbul
41 2017 2 July–12 July Kraków
42 2018 24 June–4 July Manama
43 2019 30 June–10 July Baku
44 2020–21 16 July–31 July 2021
Originally scheduled for 2020. Postponed to an extended 2021 session due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[8]
45 2022–23 10 September–25 September 2023
Originally scheduled for 19 June–30 June in Kazan, Russia. Postponed to an extended 2023 session due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[9][10]


At the end of each ordinary session, the committee elects a chairperson, five vice-chairpersons and a Rapporteur from those members whose term will continue through the next session.[6] These are known as the Bureau, and their representatives are responsible for coordinating the work of the World Heritage Committee, including fixing dates, hours and the order of business meetings.[1]


Each state member of the World Heritage Committee has one vote. Decisions require a simple majority with abstentions counted as not voting. Votes are delivered by a show of hands unless a secret ballot is requested by either the chairperson or two or more states members.[6]


Current members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee

Member state[11] Mandate
 Argentina 2021–2025
 Belgium 2021–2025
 Bulgaria 2017–2021
 Egypt 2019–2023
 Ethiopia 2019–2023
 Greece 2021–2025
 India 2021–2025
 Italy 2021–2025
 Japan 2021–2025
 Mali 2019–2023
 Mexico 2021–2025
 Nigeria 2019–2023
 Oman 2019–2023
 Russia 2019–2023
 Rwanda 2021–2025
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2017–2021
 Saudi Arabia 2019–2023
 South Africa 2019–2023
 Thailand 2019–2023
 Qatar 2021–2025
 Zambia 2021–2025
Total 21


Increasing politicization of World Heritage Committee decisions to the detriment of conservation aims has been alleged, particularly with regard to new nominations for the World Heritage List, but also with the consideration of sites for the List of World Heritage in Danger.[12][13] In 2010, states parties including Hungary, Switzerland and Zimbabwe submitted an official protest against such politicization.[5]

An external audit requested by the World Heritage Committee for its Global Strategy of the World Heritage List concluded in 2011 that political considerations were indeed influencing decisions.[5] It observed that the composition of committee representatives had shifted from experts to diplomats in spite of World Heritage Convention Article 9 and found that opinions from advisory bodies often diverged from World Heritage Committee decisions.[5]

In 2016, Israel recalled its UNESCO ambassador after the World Heritage Committee adopted a resolution in a secret ballot that referred to one of Jerusalem's holiest sites, the Temple Mount, only as a "Muslim holy site of worship", not mentioning that Jews and Christians venerate the site.[14][15]

See also


  1. UNESCO. "The World Heritage Committee". UNESCO. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  2. According to the UNESCO World Heritage website, States Parties are countries that signed and ratified The World Heritage Convention. As of March 2013, there were a total of 170 State Parties.
  3. "The World Heritage Committee". UNESCO World Heritage Site. Retrieved 2006-10-14.
  4. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Advisory Bodies". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  5. Office of the External Auditor for the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (2011) Independent Evaluation by the UNESCO External Auditor, Volume 1: Implementation of the Global Strategy for the Credible, Balanced and Representative World Heritage List. UNESCO Headquarters, Paris.
  6. UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the World Natural and Cultural Heritage (2015) Rules of Procedure. World Heritage Centre, Paris. Download available at (27 June 2019)
  7. "Sessions". UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  8. UNESCO (16 July 2021). "Extended 44th World Heritage Committee session opens in Fuzhou, China". UNESCO. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  9. "UNESCO indefinitely postpones planned world heritage meeting in Russia". The Art Newspaper. 22 April 2022. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  10. "Saudi Arabia to host UNESCO's World Heritage Committee meetings in September". Saudi Gazette. 2023-01-24. Retrieved 2023-01-25.
  11. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "UNESCO World Heritage Centre – 40th session of the Committee". Retrieved 27 March 2018.
  12. Meskell, Lynn (Winter 2014). "States of Conservation: Protection, Politics, and Pacting within UNESCO's World Heritage Committee". Anthropological Quarterly. 87: 217–243. doi:10.1353/anq.2014.0009. S2CID 143628800.
  13. The Economist. 2010. UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites: A Danger List in Danger. Accessed 27 June 2019.
  14. "U.S. to Withdraw From UNESCO. Here's What That Means". 2017-10-12. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  15. Tress, Luke (2016-10-26). "UNESCO adopts another resolution ignoring Jewish link to Temple Mount". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
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