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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the gestation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and the rise of the World Heritage title to a global brand and major catalyst for heritage aspirations, activities, and discourses. Despite conceptual reforms in the 1990s and a more nation-centered mode of World Heritage Committee operations since 2010, Northern dominance and biases persist. Global co-custodianship of sites has remained largely symbolic and the contribution of World Heritage to international cooperation and site conservation is uneven. World Heritage has clearly broadened conceptions of cultural heritage, even if inconsistently. Social effects of site designation tend to be complex, producing both winners and losers on the local level, with external actors extending their influence. Recent financial difficulties make ambitious change unlikely for the coming years. The power of the World Heritage title is increasingly at the mercy of the treaty states’ internal conditions, rather than of the global institutional framework.

Keywords: common heritage of mankind, cultural heritage, ICOMOS, IUCN, Melaka, North–South tensions, heritage tourism, UNESCO World Heritage, World Heritage Committee, world-making

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