Preserving our heritage

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Mount Wutai – World Heritage 2009, Foguang Temple
© UNESCO/Liu Hao
Inventorying and safeguarding humankind's heritage

Heritage, encompasses tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, movable and immovable and documentary assets inherited from the past and transmitted to future generations by virtue of their irreplaceable value. The term ‘heritage’ has evolved considerably over time. Initially referring exclusively to the monumental remains of cultures, the concept of heritage has gradually been expanded to embrace living culture and contemporary expressions.

As a source of identity, heritage is a valuable factor for empowering local communities and enabling vulnerable groups to participate fully in social and cultural life. It can also provide time-tested solutions for conflict prevention and reconciliation.

Through a complete set of Conventions concerning heritage, UNESCO offer a unique platform for international cooperation and dialogue, fostering mutual respect, appreciation and understanding. These legal instruments support the development of national policies for heritage protection, with an emphasis on preservation, management and training.

Natural and cultural heritage sites, museums, libraries and archive collections around the world are increasingly becoming the collateral victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts. The upsurge in wilful destruction of heritage, whether in Afghanistan, the Middle East or Africa, over the past decade demonstrates UNESCO’s enduring relevance in leading international efforts to prevent the pillage and illicit trafficking of cultural property.