On Nov 16, 1972, UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. As it commemorates its 40th anniversary this year, there are 190 state parties to the convention. It is a unique international treaty that provides a common framework for the conservation of natural and cultural places of outstanding universal value. Natural wonders such as the Serengeti National Park, the Galapagos Islands and the Great Barrier Reef; cultural monuments like Angkor, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall; and sites such as Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia that are of both natural and cultural value, are just some of the 962 sites in 157 countries included on the World Heritage List.
The theme of the 40th anniversary of the convention is sustainable development. Many national, regional and international seminars and workshops have explored the delicate balance between conserving the World Heritage sites and promoting the economic, social and environmental well-being of people living in and around those sites. Informing and raising the awareness of local communities about the global significance of their habitats is a necessary condition for the success of national and local efforts to conserve and transmit World Heritage to future generations.
Change is the only constant in natural and societal processes, and the challenge of conserving World Heritage sites in the midst of unpredictable and accelerating changes in land and seascapes is becoming ever more difficult.