The role of ICOMOS in the World Heritage Convention

The ICOMOS procedure for evaluating nominations to the World Heritage List

There is a clearly defined annual procedure and calendar for the evaluation of nominations to the World Heritage List.

This evaluation process is coordinated by the World Heritage Unit of the ICOMOS International Secretariat, in collaboration with the ICOMOS World Heritage Working Group and the ICOMOS World Heritage Panel and involves widest possible collaboration and consultation, both in terms of the specialist expertise but also the geographical and cultural sensibilities present within the ICOMOS network.

For each nominated property, ICOMOS assesses whether it bears testimony of an outstanding universal value (whether it meets the criteria of the Operational Guidelines and the conditions of authenticity and integrity), whether legal protection is adequate and whether the management processes are satisfactory.

The preparatory work is done in several stages, including an initial study of the dossiers, consultations and the organization of a technical evaluation mission.

New nominations must be submitted by States parties to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris before 1 February of each year. The World Heritage Centre checks that nomination dossiers submitted are complete and delivers them to the ICOMOS International Secretariat by 15 March of the same year.

The dossiers are then subject to an initial study to identify the various issues relating to the property and the choice of the various experts who will be called on to study the dossier (ICOMOS advisers, experts for the mission, desk reviewers).

Experts, either from within the ICOMOS network (International Scientific Committees and National Committees) or from partners organisations or other entities with specific expertise are consulted to express their opinion about the comparative analysis and the outstanding universal value of the nominated properties.

ICOMOS also seeks the advice of specialist bodies with which it maintains close relations: TICCIH (the International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage), IFLA (the International Federation of Landscape Architects) and DOCOMOMO (the International Committee for the Documentation and Conservation of Monuments and Sites of the Modern Movement).

At the same time, technical evaluation missions are organized for all properties with the aim to study the authenticity, integrity, factors affecting the property, protection, conservation and management. As a rule, ICOMOS calls on a person from the region in which the nominated property is located. In certain exceptional circumstances, often in cases in which the nature of the property is unusual, the expert may not originate from the region concerned. Technical evaluation missions are carried out jointly with IUCN for mixed properties and for some cultural landscapes. All experts have a duty of confidentiality. Their opinion about the nomination does not necessarily reflect that of the organisation; it is the ICOMOS World Heritage Panel which, after acquainting itself with all the information, analyses it and determines the organisation's position.

The World Heritage Unit at the ICOMOS International Secretariat receives the mission reports and desk reviews during the months of September and October (missions are sometimes delayed for climatic or political reasons).

Draft evaluations (in English or French) are prepared on the basis of the information contained in the nomination dossiers, mission reports, desk reviews and research. These draft evaluations are then examined by the ICOMOS World Heritage Panel during a 4- 5 day meeting held at the beginning of December of the same year. The Panel comprises the elected or co-opted Executive Committee members, representing all regions of the world and a wide range of skills and experience, as well as international experts, all members of ICOMOS chosen for their particular area of expertise based on the nominated properties. It defines the recommendations on each property and identifies the additional information requests to be sent to States Parties, if necessary. Any additional documentation received is examined by the ICOMOS World Heritage Working Group which meets in March of the following year.

Following these meetings, the evaluations are revised, translated into the two working languages of the World Heritage Committee, printed and dispatched to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for distribution to the members of the World Heritage Committee. They are then presented to the session of the World Heritage Committee.

As an advisory body, ICOMOS makes a recommendation based on an objective, rigorous and scientific analysis. However, decisions are the responsibility of the World Heritage Committee. The process relies on the Committee members and their knowledge of the nominations and the evaluations published by the Advisory bodies.

Read here for a more detailed account of the ICOMOS evaluation procedure and for an analysis of the 2013 nominations

Additional information