The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a special agency within the UN, was founded in 1945 with the main purpose of promoting peace and security in the world. Since 1978 it has been inscribing certain global sites as World Heritage sites.
The first sites it inscribed included the Galapagos Islands and Yellowstone Park. Since then, many other natural and cultural wonders, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China and Stonehenge, have joined the list.
What standards do sites have to meet?
Each inscribed site has to meet certain cultural and natural criteria. For example, it has to represent a “masterpiece of human creative genius,” be an “outstanding example of traditional human settlement” or have “exceptional natural beauty.”
Nations often spend years developing their pitches for inclusion on the list. They have to convince the UNESCO committee that the sites will be protected and receive financial support. Having sites included on the list enables countries to attract tourists and resources to the sites.
When the World Heritage Committee had its annual meeting in 2019 in Azerbaijan, it added 29 names to the list. There are now a total of 1,121 sites on the list. Here’s a closer look at five that made in list in 2019.
Paraty and Ilha Grande in Brazil
The Paraty and Ilha Grande in Brazil is the only site on the list which combines cultural and natural elements. The coastal town of Paraty used to be the final point of the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Route) and it was also an entry port for slaves who worked in the mines. The historic center of Paraty has retained much of the 18th and 19th-century architecture.
Paraty borders on one of the world’s key biodiversity hotspots known for its richness in endemic species. A number of the animal species are endangered, such as the white-lipped peccary, the jaguar, and several primate species like the Tufted Capuchin and Brown Howler Monkey.
Jaipur City in Rajasthan, India
Jaipur City, the fortified ‘pink city’ in Rajasthan, India, was built in 1729 and is believed to be the first planned city to be built in India. Vedic architectural principles inspired its grid layout.
Residences, temples, markets, and shops built along the main streets have uniform facades and the streets intersect in the center to create large public squares. Different city sectors reference traditional Hindu concepts.
The city was designed as a commercial capital and tourists today are able to experience the local artisanal, cooperative and commercial traditions it continues to maintain.
Jodrell Bank Observatory, U.K.
Jodrell Bank Observatory is one of the world’s leading radio astronomy observatories. It opened in 1945 and this site qualified for four out of 10 of the selection criteria, the most of any of the new sites inscribed in 2019.
Scientific studies conducted there have contributed to our understanding of quantum optics, spacecraft tracking, meteors, and the moon. The observatory was the first to use radio waves instead of visible light to understand the universe.
Visitors to the site can see the Lovell Telescope, of the largest in the world as well as evidence of every stage of the history of radio astronomy, from when it was a new science up to the present day.
French Austral Lands and Seas, France
The French Austral Lands and Seas in the remote reaches of the sub-Antarctic region is one of the last wilderness areas on the planet. These isolated volcanic islands are a refuge for marine birds, particularly the world’s largest colonies of king penguins and Yellow-nosed albatrosses.
More than 50 million birds and as many as 47 species live on these islands, also inhabited by many marine animals. The volcanic landscapes teem with life, featuring a high representation of the biodiversity of the Southern Ocean, and making an essential contribution to the health of the oceans.
As they are situated thousands of miles away from any continent, these islands are protected from the impact of human activities and are showcases of biological evolution. They provide us with models for monitoring global changes.
Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City, China
The archeological ruins of Liangzhu, located in the Yangtze River Basin, reveal the life of an early urban civilization based on rice cultivation during the late Neolithic period in China. The ruins show evidence of urban planning and a water conservation system.
The differentiated burials reveal the social hierarchy of the day and excavated objects, such as a series of jade artifacts, symbolize the unified belief system.
DNA studies from the burial sites indicate that the area was populated with diverse but distinct cultures, and it could possibly have been one of the migratory routes of the time. The ruins are evidence of concepts of social and political organization as well as cultural identity in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age.