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A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 states parties which are elected by their General Assembly.
The program catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The programme was founded with the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on November 16, 1972. Since then, 189 states parties have ratified the convention.
As of 2011[update], 936 sites are listed: 725 cultural, 183 natural, and 28 mixed properties, in 153 States Parties. Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites to date with 47 sites inscribed on the list. UNESCO references each World Heritage Site with an identification number; but new inscriptions often include previous sites now listed as part of larger descriptions. As a result, the identification numbers exceed 1200 even though there are fewer on the list.
While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
In 1872 the Yellowstone National Park was established as a national park in the United States and one hundred years later during the Nixon administration it was proposed the World Heritage Committee or 'world Heritage Trust', that was accepted widely and as such is the American national park concept being carried out worldwide. 
In 1954, the government of Egypt decided to build the Aswan Dam (Aswan High Dam), an event that would deluge a valley containing treasures of ancient Egypt such as the Abu Simbel temples. UNESCO then launched a worldwide safeguarding campaign. The Abu Simbel and Philae temples were taken apart, moved to a higher location, and put back together piece by piece.
The cost of the project was US$ 80 million, about $ 40 million of which was collected from 50 countries. The project was regarded as a success, and led to other safeguarding campaigns, saving Venice and its lagoon in Italy, the ruins of Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan, and the Borobodur Temple Compounds in Indonesia. UNESCO then initiated, with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, a draft convention to protect the common cultural heritage of humanity.
The United States initiated the idea of cultural conservation with nature conservation. A White House conference in 1965 called for a ‘World Heritage Trust’ to preserve "the world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry." The International Union for Conservation of Nature developed similar proposals in 1968, and they were presented in 1972 to the United Nations conference on Human Environment in Stockholm. Under the World Heritage Committee signatory countries are required to produce and submit periodic data reporting providing the World Heritage Committee with an overview of each participating nation's implementation of the World Heritage Convention and a "snapshot" of current conditions at World Heritage properties. 
A single text was agreed on by all parties, and the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.
A country must first take an inventory of its significant cultural and natural properties. This is called the Tentative List. A country may not nominate properties that have not already been included on the Tentative List. Next, it can select a property from this list to place into a Nomination File.
At this point, the file is evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites and the World Conservation Union. These bodies then make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee. The Committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the World Heritage List, and sometimes defers the decision to request more information from the country who nominated the site. There are ten selection criteria – a site must meet at least one of them to be included on the list.
Until the end of 2004, there were six criteria for cultural heritage and four criteria for natural heritage. In 2005, this was modified so that there is only one set of ten criteria. Nominated sites must be of "outstanding universal value" and meet at least one of the ten criteria.
UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site provides prima facie evidence that such culturally sensitive sites are legally protected pursuant to the Law of War, under the Geneva Convention, its Articles, Protocols and Customs, together with other treaties including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and international law.
Thus, the Geneva Convention treaty promulgates:
"Article 53. PROTECTION OF CULTURAL OBJECTS AND OF PLACES OF WORSHIP. Without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954,' and of other relevant international instruments, it is prohibited:
There are 936 World Heritage Sites located in 153 States Party. Of these, 725 are cultural, 183 are natural and 28 are mixed properties. The World Heritage Committee has divided the countries into five geographic zones: Africa, Arab States (composed of Middle East and North Africa), Asia-Pacific (includes Australia and Oceania), Europe & North America (includes Canada and the United States) and Latin America & Caribbean.
Russia and the Caucasus states are classified as European, while Mexico is classified as belonging to the Latin America & Caribbean zone, despite its location in North America. The UNESCO geographic zones also give greater emphasis on administrative, rather than geographic associations. Hence, Gough Island, located in the South Atlantic, is part of the Europe & North America region because the government of the United Kingdom nominated the site.
The table below includes a breakdown of the sites according to these zones and their classification:
|North America & Europe||73||432||11||516|
|Latin America & the Caribbean||32||62||3||97|
* Because many sites belong to more than one country, duplicates exist when counting them by country and within a region. For a table with by-country statistics, see: Table of World Heritage Sites by country.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: World Heritage Sites|
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