UNESCO and world heritage

The story behind the UNESCO World Heritage List

UNESCO’s constitution proclaims that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” The international community gathered together in UNESCO in 1945 at the end of World War II to build a lasting peace.

UNESCO runs coordinated state initiatives in the fields of education, science, culture and communication. In 1972, UNESCO adopted the World Heritage Convention, which recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between them. The convention established the World Heritage List. Heritage included on this list becomes everyone’s responsibility and must be preserved for the benefit of the international community.

France ratified the convention in 1975 and at the present time 191 states are signatories. The initial years of the convention saw iconic sites and masterpieces being included on the World Heritage List. As of the 1990s and following the universalisation of the convention, a change in the type of sites included on the list can be seen, in response to a need for a global strategy making for a more representative and balanced list. The list opened up to cultural landscapes, serial properties, cultural routes, industrial, scientific and technical heritage and intangible values.

The current World Heritage List has 1,007 properties of which 39 are located in France.


Assessment prior to being included on the World Heritage List

Applying to be included on the World Heritage List is a long process.

The Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars application has successfully completed the national level nomination phases. It is currently being evaluated by UNESCO’s consultative bodies. This evaluation takes 18 months.

ICOMOS, IUCN and ICCROM are the main international non-governmental organisations that bring together experts from all over the world who work to conserve natural and cultural heritage and conduct assessments for UNESCO of the nominations made by the States that are parties to the Convention on the World Heritage List.

The Champagne Slopes, Houses and Cellars nomination is currently being assessed by ICOMOS and IUCN as it is classified as being a property in the cultural landscapes category.

The outcome of the evaluation will be made known in May 2015, i.e. a month before the application goes before the World Heritage Committee in June 2015 in Bonn in Germany. The evaluation is coupled with a proposed decision.

The final decision is taken by the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee. The property may be inscribed, not inscribed, deferred or more information may be requested from the State Party. Non-registration is definitive. Deferring an application means that it has been turned down but does allow for the proposal to be made again in the future on other grounds. Requesting further information means that the application and its exceptional universal value is being taken into account subject to amendments or additional information that needs to be submitted within three years.