For almost 50 years, Unesco’s 1972 world heritage convention (WHC) has been the foremost global instrument for the protection of humanity’s natural and cultural heritage. In 1977 the World Heritage List was created, which inscribes recognised sites of cultural and natural outstanding universal value around the world.
As of May 2020, 167 countries have signed the convention. There are 1,121 World Heritage sites on the list, including 869 cultural heritage sites, 213 natural heritage sites and 39 mixed sites with both cultural and natural elements. World Heritage sites range from underwater heritage to polar heritage, from individual buildings to entire cities, from vast ecosystems to modernist architecture and from religious properties to those of secular importance.