The 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee recently concluded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and it was a momentous occasion for preserving and recognizing cultural and natural sites around the world. During the session, 42 new sites were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, along with the extension of 5 existing sites.
Out of the 42 new sites, 33 are cultural sites and 9 are natural sites. These sites will now receive the highest level of protection and will have access to technical and financial assistance from UNESCO. With these new additions, the total number of UNESCO World Heritage sites has reached an impressive 1199 across 168 countries.
The session of the Committee also saw representatives from 195 States Parties and nearly 300 civil society organizations come together to address major global challenges facing heritage. The topics discussed included climate change, urban development, armed conflicts, demographic pressure, and mass tourism. UNESCO presented studies and innovative solutions for management, conservation, and raising public awareness, including the immersive Dive Into Heritage tool, which will allow the general public to explore World Heritage sites online starting in 2025.
In addition to the new inscriptions, six World Heritage properties in Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Haiti, the Marshall Islands, and Sri Lanka received international funding totaling $336,000 to support local conservation projects. This financial aid demonstrates the commitment to preserving these sites and ensuring their long-term sustainability.
A significant achievement this year was Africa reaching the symbolic milestone of 100 sites on the World Heritage List, with five new sites being inscribed from the continent. Rwanda celebrated its first two inscriptions with Nyungwe National Park and the genocide memorial sites, while Uganda’s “Tombs of the Buganda Kings at Kasubi” were successfully removed from the World Heritage in Danger list after an ambitious restoration project supported by UNESCO.
To further increase the number of African heritage sites on the World Heritage List, the States Parties to the Convention adopted a dedicated strategy for the continent developed by UNESCO. This strategy will provide better support for African states in carrying out local conservation projects and preparing World Heritage nomination files.
During the session, two Ukrainian sites were also added to the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats linked to shelling. “Saint Sophia’s Cathedral and complex of monastic and Lavra buildings in Kyiv-Pechersk” and “the ensemble of the historic center in Lviv” joined the “Historic Centre of Odesa,” which was inscribed on the list in January 2023. Inclusion on this list strengthens local conservation measures and opens the door to international technical and financial support.
In addition to recognizing new cultural and natural sites, three Sites of Memory linked to recent conflicts were added to the World Heritage List. Argentina’s “ESMA Museum and Place of Memory – Former Clandestine Detention, Torture and Extermination Centre,” Rwanda’s “Genocide Memorial Sites: Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisesero,” and Belgium and France’s “Funeral and Memorial Sites of the Western Front in the First World War” were acknowledged for their historical significance. These sites serve as places of reconciliation, contemplation, and peaceful reflection, and their inclusion on the World Heritage List emphasizes their importance in the peace process.
The 45th session of the World Heritage Committee was a momentous occasion, with numerous new inscriptions and extensions, as well as discussions on pressing global heritage challenges. Through the commitment and collaboration of the international community, these sites will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.