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Recent developments UNESCO World Heritage listing


The English city of Liverpool has been removed from UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

Turkey rejected UNESCO’s voicing of “grave concern” for the World Heritage Site Hagia Sophia in Istanbul after it was changed from a museum to a mosque.


Prelims, GS-I: Art and Culture, GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
  2. UNESCO World Heritage Committee
  3. Developments in Liverpool as a World Heritage Site
  4. About Hagia Sophia
  5. About UNESCO

What are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

  • UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of distinctive cultural or physical importance which is considered of outstanding value to humanity.
  • It may be a building, a city, a complex, a desert, a forest, an island, a lake, a monument, or a mountain.
  • They have been inscribed on the World Heritage List to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy as they have a special cultural or physical significance and outstanding universal value to the humanity.
  • Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites.
  • At present, India has 38 World Heritage Properties. All the sites under the Ministry are conserved as per ASI’s Conservation Policy and are in good shape.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee

  • The World Heritage Committee selects the sites to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.
  • It monitors the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.
  • It is composed of 21 states parties that are elected by the General Assembly of States Parties for a four-year term.
  • India is NOT a member of this Committee.

Developments in Liverpool as a World Heritage Site

  • UNESCO found new buildings, including a football stadium, undermined the attractiveness of its Victorian docks and stripped Liverpool of its world heritage status.
  • This makes Liverpool only the third place to be removed from the prestigious list. The only other sites stripped previously of the title are a wildlife sanctuary in Oman in 2007 after poaching and habitat loss and the Dresden Elbe valley in Germany in 2009 when a four-lane motorway bridge was built over the river.
  • The UK ranks eighth in the worldwide list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Liverpool made no effort to continue to comply with World Heritage criteria, instead pushing ahead with more major building projects — in 2012, UNESCO threatened to revoke Liverpool’s World Heritage status because of “substantial” building interventions.

About Hagia Sophia

  • Hagia Sophia is a Late Antique (Late antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages in Europe) place of worship in Istanbul, designed by the Greeks.
  • Built in 537 as the patriarchal cathedral of the imperial capital of Constantinople, it was the largest Christian church of the eastern Roman Empire.
  • In 1453, after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque.
  • In 1935, the secular Turkish Republic established it as a museum.
  • In 2020, it controversially re-opened as a mosque and the UNESCO expressed “grave concern” over the fate Hagia Sophia; but, Turkish foreign ministry dismissed UNESCO’s concerns and said that the changes to Hagia Sophia had “no negative impact” on UNESCO standards.


  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture.
  • It is also a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), a coalition of UN agencies and organizations aimed at fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • UNESCO’s Headquarters are located in Paris and it has 193 Members and 11 Associate Members.
  • Three UNESCO member states are not UN members: Cook Islands, Niue, and Palestine.
  • While three UN member states (Israel, Liechtenstein, United States) are not UNESCO members.
  • UNESCO sponsors many programmes such as in the fields of teacher training, science, promotion of media and press freedom, regional and cultural history, cultural diversity, natural and cultural heritage, translating world literature, human rights, etc.

Areas of Specialization of UNESCO are:

  1. Education transforms lives and is at the heart of UNESCO’s mission to build peace, eradicate poverty and drive sustainable development.
  2. Protecting Heritage and Fostering Creativity is another area of focus for UNESCO and it has adopted a three-pronged approach to make culture takes it rightful place in development strategies and processes:
    1. Spearheads worldwide advocacy for culture and development.
    2. Engages with the international community to set clear policies and legal frameworks
    3. Works on the ground to support governments and local stakeholders to safeguard heritage, strengthen creative industries and encourage cultural pluralism.
  3. Science for a Sustainable Future is another area where UNESCO works to assist countries to invest in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), to develop national science policies, to reform their science systems and to build capacity to monitor and evaluate performance through STI indicators.
  4. Regarding Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO helps to enable people to create and use knowledge for just and inclusive societies, support them in understanding each other and working together to build lasting peace.
  5. UNESCO advances freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, combats online hate speech, as well as disinformation and misinformation through awareness raising initiatives.

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024