Heritage is the inheritance of the past
which benefits us today and which we pass
on to future generations.
Our cultural and natural heritages are
two irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded on 16 Novembre 1945. The aims of this specialist United Nations agency go far beyond building classrooms in devastated countries or publishing scientific discoveries. Education, science, culture and communication are means serving a more ambitious objective: to build peace in the mind of mankind.
Today, UNESCO operates as a laboratory of ideas. It also lays down standards in the form of universal texts on new ethical issues. The Organization is also a centre for the exchange of information – distributing and sharing information and knowledge – while at the same time helping member states to develop their human and institutional capacities in a wide range of areas. In brief, UNESCO promotes international cooperation among its 195 member states and its 8 associated members in the fields of education, science, culture and communication.
UNESCO pioneers international initiatives to protect the world’s heritage. The Convention for the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage, adopted in 1972, is based on the idea that certain sites have an exceptional universal value and should therefore become part of humanity’s common heritage. Without prejudice to national sovereignty and ownership rights laid down by national legislations, states that have signed up to the Convention recognize that protection of the world’s heritage is the duty of the international community as a whole.
Switzerland ratified the UNESCO Convention for the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage in 1975 (UNESCO 1972 Convention, RS 0.451.41). UNESCO proposed this convention following relocation of the temple of Abu Simbel (Egypt), a feat made possible through international commitment and cooperation. According to the Convention, humanity as a whole is responsible for its cultural and natural heritage. The Convention proposes to strengthen cooperation between signatory states in order to conserve and protect any heritage declared to be of world interest that is entered on the World Heritage List. The Convention presents a list of decisive criteria for inscription and provides for the establishment of an inter-governmental committee and a fund for protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
The Swiss Commission for UNESCO disseminates these values and gives concrete shape to the objectives of UNESCO in Switzerland.
The Association UNESCO Destination Switzerland is the touristic network for the designated World Heritage Sites and the UNESCO-Biosphere Reserves.
Items registered on the World Heritage List must have an exceptional and universal value. The list currently contains 936 entities in 153 signatory states around the world; 725 of these are cultural entities, 183 natural entities and 28 mixed entities (as of July 2011).
There are currently eleven Swiss sites on the list (as of July 2011). Cultural entities include the old town of Berne (1983), the convent of Saint-Gall (1983), the Benedictine monastery of St-Jean-des-Soeurs in Müstair (1983), the three castles, walls and ramparts of the market town of Bellinzone (2000), the Lavaux terraced vineyards (2007) and the Rhaetian railway in the countryside of Albula and Bernina (2008), the Watchmaking Townplanning of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle (2009) and the Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps (2011); natural entities include the Jungfrau-Aletsch region (2001), the Monte San Giorgio (2003) and the Tectonic Arena Sardona (2008).
More information about UNESCO.