House of Representatives Committees

Managing Australia's World Heritage



(Extract from Operational Guidelines, February 1996)

Criteria for the inclusion of cultural properties in the World Heritage List

23. The criteria for the inclusion of cultural properties in the World Heritage List should always be seen in relation to one another and should be considered in the context of the definition set out in Article 1 of the Convention which is reproduced below:

24. A monument, group of buildings or site - as defined above - which is nominated for inclusion in the World Heritage List will be considered to be of outstanding universal value for the purpose of the Convention when the Committee finds that it meets one or more of the following criteria and the test of authenticity. Each property nominated should therefore:

25. Nominations of immovable property which are likely to become movable will not be considered.

26. With respect to groups of urban buildings, the Committee has furthermore adopted the following Guidelines concerning their inclusion in the World Heritage List.

27. Groups of urban buildings eligible for inclusion in theWorld Heritage List fall into three main categories, namely:

28. The evaluation of towns that are no longer inhabited does not raise any special difficulties other than those related to archaeological sites in general: the criteria which call for uniqueness or exemplary character have led to the choice of groups of buildings noteworthy for their purity of style, for the concentrations of monuments they contain and sometimes for their important historical associations. It is important for urban archaeological sites to be listed as integral units. A cluster of monuments or a small group of buildings is not adequate to suggest the multiple and complex functions of a city which has disappeared; remains of such a city should be preserved in their entirety together with their natural surroundings whenever possible.

29. In the case of inhabited historic towns the difficulties are numerous, largely owing to the fragility of their urban fabric (which has in many cases been seriously disrupted since the advent of the industrial era) and the runaway speed with which their surroundings have been urbanized. To qualify for inclusion, towns should compel recognition because of their architectural interest and should not be considered only on the intellectual grounds of the role they may have played in the past or their value as historical symbols under criterion (vi) for the inclusion of cultural properties in the World Heritage List (see paragraph 24 above). To be eligible for inclusion in the List, the spatial organization, structure, materials, forms and, where possible, functions of a group of buildings should essentially reflect the civilization or succession of civilizations which have prompted the nomination of the property. Four categories can be distinguished:

30. Historic centres and historic areas should be listed only where they contain a large number of ancient buildings of monumental importance which provide a direct indication of the characteristic features of a town of exceptional interest. Nominations of several isolated and unrelated buildings which allegedly represent, in themselves, a town whose urban fabric has ceased to be discernible, should not be encouraged.

31. However, nominations could be made regarding properties that occupy a limited space but have had a major influence on the history of town planning. In such cases, the nomination should make it clear that it is the monumental group that is to be listed and that the town is mentioned only incidentally as the place where the property is located. Similarly, if a building of clearly universal significance is located in severely degraded or insufficiently representative urban surroundings, it should, of course, be listed without any special reference to the town.

32. It is difficult to assess the quality of new towns of the twentieth century. History alone will tell which of them will best serve as examples of contemporary town planning. The examination of the files on these towns should be deferred, save under exceptional circumstances.

33. Under present conditions, preference should be given to the inclusion in the World Heritage List of small or medium-sized urban areas which are in a position to manage any potential growth, rather than the great metropolises, on which sufficiently complete information and documentation cannot readily be provided that would serve as a satisfactory basis for their inclusion in their entirety.

34. In view of the effects which the entry of a town in the World Heritage List could have on its future, such entries should be exceptional. Inclusion in the List implies that legislative and administrative measures have already been taken to ensure the protection of the group of buildings and its environment. Informed awareness on the part of the population concerned, without whose active participation any conservation scheme would be impractical, is also essential.

35. With respect to cultural landscapes, the Committee has furthermore adopted the following guidelines concerning their inclusion in the World Heritage List.

36. Cultural landscapes represent the "combined works of nature and of man" designated in Article 1 of the Convention. They are illustrative of the evolution of human society and settlement over time, under the influence of the physical constraints and/or opportunities presented by their natural environment and of successive social, economic and cultural forces, both external and internal. They should be selected on the basis both of their outstanding universal value and of their representativity in terms of a clearly defined geo-cultural region and also for their capacity to illustrate the essential and distinct cultural elements of such regions.

37. The term "cultural landscape" embraces a diversity of manifestations of the interaction between humankind and its natural environment.

38. Cultural landscapes often reflect specific techniques of sustainable land-use, considering the characteristics and limits of the natural environment they are established in, and a specific spiritual relation to nature. Protection of cultural landscapes can contribute to modern techniques of sustainable land-use and can maintain or enhance natural values in the landscape. The continued existence of traditional forms of land-use supports biological diversity in many regions of the world. The protection of traditional cultural landscapes is therefore helpful in maintaining biological diversity.

39. Cultural landscapes fall into three main categories, namely:

40. The extent of a cultural landscape for inclusion on the World Heritage List is relative to its functionality and intelligibility. In any case, the sample selected must be substantial enough to adequately represent the totality of the cultural landscape that it illustrates. The possibility of designating long linear areas which represent culturally significant transport and communication networks should not be excluded.

41. The general criteria for conservation and management laid down in paragraph 24.(b).(ii) above are equally applicable to cultural landscapes. It is important that due attention be paid to the full range of values represented in the landscape, both cultural and natural. The nominations should be prepared in collaboration with and the full approval of local communities.

42. The existence of a category of "cultural landscape", included on the World Heritage List on the basis of the criteria set out in paragraph 24 above, does not exclude the possibility of sites of exceptional importance in relation to both cultural and natural criteria continuing to be included. In such cases, their outstanding universal significance must be justified under both sets of criteria.

Criteria for the inclusion of natural properties in theWorld Heritage List

43. In accordance with Article 2 of the Convention, the following is considered as "natural heritage":

44. A natural heritage property - as defined above - which is submitted for inclusion in the World Heritage List will be considered to be of outstanding univrsal value for the purposes of the Convention when the Committee finds that it meets one or more of the following criteria and fulfills the conditions of integrity set out below. Sites nominated should therefore:

45. In principle, a site could be inscribed on the World Heritage List as long as it satisfies one of the four criteria and the relevant conditions of integrity. However, most inscribed sites have met two or more criteria. Nomination dossiers, IUCN evaluations and the final recommendations of the Committee on each inscribed site are available for consultation by States Parties which may wish to use such information as guides for identifying and elaborating nomination of sites within their own territories.


Back to top