The notion of universal heritage and its preservation was enshrined in the World Heritage Convention, which UNESCO would adopt in 1972. So far, 185 states have signed the Convention.
World Cultural and Natural Heritage List
Ayers Rock, Grand Canyon, Palace of Versailles,Machu Picchu…these are only a few of the 936 sites that appear on the awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage List. The 725 cultural sites include buildings of particular architectural merit, entire towns, and even industrial facilities. The 183 natural sites include, among others, important ecosystems, vestiges of evolutionary history, and nature reserves. 28 of the 936 sites are mixed, i.e. they come under both categories.
It is a privilege to carry the UNESCO World Heritage symbol and confers great prestige on the sites that hold it. However, it is not granted eternally – UNESCO diligently checks that the necessary steps are continually being taken to preserve the outstanding universal value (integrity and authenticity) of the sites on its World Heritage List. World Heritage Sites which are at threat from decay, major construction projects or wars are placed on the “List of World Heritage in Danger”, and sometimes even withdrawn from the World Heritage List.
World Heritage Sites in Switzerland
Switzerland has been a signatory state to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention since it came into force in 1975. Eight years later, the first three Swiss sites were accepted on the UNESCO World Heritage List, today, the tiny country of Switzerlandhas 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites both natural and cultural, and has two applications pending.
Overview of the World Heritage Sites
1983 Old City of Bern, Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair, Convent of St. Gall
2000 Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzona
2001 Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch
2003 Monte San Giorgio (Canton Ticino)
2007 Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces
2008 Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona
2009 La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle, watchmaking town planning
2011 Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps
(see more info and picture)
Living cultural heritage
Inclusion on the World Heritage List should not transform the site into an off-limits open-air museum. The explicit goal of UNESCO is to guarantee regional development which is not only sustainable but is also consistent with World Heritage principles and values. What this implies in practice is striking a balance between innovation and preservation, and using our natural resources without destroying them. It is for this reason that the professional management of World Heritage Sites is vital.
A good case in point is the“Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch”. In 2010 a special centre, the "World Nature Lab", will open its doors. Its aim is to provide a platform for discussions on climate, the protection of nature, regional development and tourism. At the same time, it will seek to raise public awareness of these issues. However, such challenges are not unique to this vulnerable glacier region. Other World Heritage Sites in Switzerland are also confronted with similar problems. Take the Old Town of Berne which must reconcile the preservation of its historic architecture with the needs of a modern city. Likewise the Rhaetian Railway strives to preserve its authenticity while ensuring that it remains economically viable.