World Heritage List: Does It Make Sense?

Bruno S. Frey (University of Zurich)
Lasse Steiner (University of Zurich)

Abstract: The UNESCO World Heritage List contains the 900 most treasured Sites of humanity’s culture and landscapes. In our paper the List is regarded as institution, which serves to protect cultural heritage. An empirical overview of the List according to various characteristics is presented. The officially stated intention of the World Heritage List is the protection of global heritage. We focus on the imbalance of the existing List. It turns out that the World Heritage List is unbalanced with respect to a distribution of Sites according to population, area or per capita income. The unbalanced distribution raises question about potential alternatives to the World Heritage List. A comparative analysis is conducted to identify the conditions under which the World Heritage List is beneficial and the conditions under which alternatives, such as the market and national conservation lists, are more beneficial. This paper wants to reveal facts about the existing distribution, and is designed to help a reasoned discussion of potential alternatives to emerge.

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