What's a Unesco World Heritage Site?

Cape floral region (photo of Cape Floral Region SA, World Unesco Site, courtesy of zug55)

You may have often heard the term that a sight or destination is a Unesco World Heritage Site, but what exactly does that mean?

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. From their web-site:
"The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972."

There are currently 878 Unesco sites in the world in 145 countries on every continent – a complete list is here. You have most likely visited a few in your life-time, possibly even unaware of the site's special status. 

South Africa is in fact home to 8 Unesco World Heritage sights, including the Cradle of Humankind, The Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (2007), Robben Island, Drakensberg Park, Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, and the Vredefort Dome. 

Italy is home to the most sites of any country; 49 in fact, and the Galápagos Islands in Equador were the 1st ever listed World Heritage Site. 
Once per year, the committee gathers to consider all sites that have been nominated. A nominated site must meet at least one of ten criteria, and be considered of "outstanding universal value".

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