World Heritage

Since 1972, IUCN is the official advisor on nature under the World Heritage Convention. The Convention is known as "the most widely accepted international conservation treaty in human history”, ratified today by 195 States Parties. Natural World Heritage sites conserve the planet’s most significant ecosystems, species, and natural phenomena – from the highest mountain peaks, through forests, deserts, wetlands and reefs. Despite their iconic status, World Heritage is facing a funding crisis for many years and sites are not immune to growing threats from biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. Learn more about what IUCN is doing to address this and how you can take part.

IUCN's work on World Heritage

The World Heritage Convention is the primary international mechanism to link culture and nature, and IUCN advocates for the recognition of interaction between people and the natural environment, and embracing the stewardship and world views of Indigenous people and local communities.

The World Heritage Convention is governed by the World Heritage Committee, comprising 21 elected States Parties. IUCN is the named advisor on nature to the World Heritage Committee, and in this capacity IUCN evaluates nominations of new sites, monitors the conservation status of existing sites, builds capacity, and provides technical and policy advice to UNESCO, countries, and the World Heritage Committee.

In addition to this official role, IUCN also supports local communities and the on-the-ground protection of the world's natural heritage. This is delivered through IUCN Commissions, Members, IUCN global programmes, and IUCN regional offices. 

world heritage nominations


We evaluate

nominations of new sites and 
prepare studies of potential
candidate World Heritage sites. 

world heritage outlook


We assess

all natural World Heritage sites
through official monitoring
and the IUCN World Heritage

world heritage


We advise

States Parties, UNESCO and
the World Heritage Committee
on the conservation of natural
World Heritage. 

world heritage leadership


We build

capacities to effectively
manage World Heritage
through the World Heritage
Leadership programme.

world heritage panorama


We share

conservation solutions
from cultural and natural
World Heritage sites.

The need for a new approach

It is critical to the long-term future of the World Heritage Convention that it remains relevant to current and pressing conservation challenges. There is a growing triple planetary crisis with threats from biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. Despite the aspirations for a sustainable world, pressures on nature continue to grow and progress to ensure just and equitable futures for all peoples is increasingly challenged.

These challenges are manifested in World Heritage sites: a 2020 IUCN assessment showed that one third of sites do not have secure prospects, and today there are 16 natural World Heritage sites included on the list of World Heritage in Danger.

As the Convention celebrated its milestone 50th anniversary in 2022, IUCN developed an inclusive Union-wide strategy for IUCN’s World Heritage work. This Strategy provides a blueprint for IUCN’s contribution to ensuring the delivery of the goals of the Convention, and ensuring it makes the fullest and most relevant contribution to wider conservation efforts.

World Heritage Resources 

IUCN has developed a wide variety of World Heritage resources, including:

  • Thematic studies to support States Parties and interested stakeholders assess the potential for nominating candidate sites to the World Heritage List.
  • Evaluation templates and guidance documents to assist States Parties in revising Tentative Lists, developing Nomination Dossiers, and managing existing World Heritage sites
  • Positions and advice notes on issues related to natural World Heritage sites, such as extractives, logging and large infrastructures, and seeking sustainable solutions.
  • Resolutions in an effort to redefine priorities for IUCN’s work on World Heritage.
  • An introductory course on natural World Heritage (IUCN Academy). 

IUCN strives to enhance the role of the World Heritage Convention in protecting the planet’s biodiversity and promote effective use of its mechanisms to strengthen the conservation and management of natural sites. Our approach to conserving natural World Heritage sites is based on decades of work, expertise, and partnerships.