IUCN's World Heritage Outlook provides the first global assessment of the conservation prospects for natural World Heritage. By assessing every natural site with World Heritage status, it recognises good conservation practice and supports the role of World Heritage sites in demonstrating excellence. It also identifies the actions needed to support sites that are facing threats, in order to improve their conservation outlook.
Based on expert knowledge, IUCN's World Heritage Outlook is designed to track the state of conservation of all natural World Heritage sites over time. Implemented by the IUCN World Heritage Programme and IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), it aims to provide reliable, transparent and independent information on the present situation and future prospects of natural World Heritage through Conservation Outlook Assessments.
The IUCN World Heritage Outlook is a proactive step to overcome existing and potential knowledge gaps through a methodological approach. The best available data from a wide range of sources and consultation with stakeholders is mobilized into a single IUCN hub for natural World Heritage.
The World Heritage Outlook also highlights the benefits that World Heritage sites provide to people, and projects supporting these exceptional places. It offers an early warning system helping to identify threats and take the necessary actions to achieve excellence in the conservation of our world's natural wonders.
The IUCN World Heritage Outlook's main goal is to help improve the conservation of natural World Heritage sites and strengthen the World Heritage Convention through transparency and a proactive approach. Its objectives are to:
- Recognise well-managed sites for their conservation efforts and encourage the transfer of good management practices between sites.
- Track the state of conservation of all natural World Heritage Sites over time and raise public awareness of their importance for biodiversity conservation.
- Understand and communicate the benefits of these sites for local communities and other stakeholders, for example livelihoods and ecosystem services.
- Identify the most pressing conservation issues affecting natural World Heritage sites and support sites in addressing these issues.
Natural World Heritage sites are internationally recognised as of the highest global conservation significance, including places such as the Serengeti, Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands.
Until the IUCN World Heritage Outlook was developed, less than half of all natural sites – those affected by serious conservation issues – were regularly tracked through joint reactive monitoring by UNESCO and IUCN, in its role as advisory body on natural World Heritage. The IUCN World Heritage Outlook fills the information gap on the remaining sites through proactive and more regular monitoring.
Facts and figures on natural World Heritage
There are 252 World Heritage sites with natural Outstanding Universal Value as of 2020:
- 213 classified as natural sites
- 39 mixed sites classified as both natural and cultural
Together, they account for 22% of all 1121 World Heritage properties listed, protecting over 369 million hectares of land and sea.
Natural World Heritage sites include 202 terrestrial sites, 50 marine sites, 19 transnational sites, and 17 sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
107 countries have an area designated as a natural or mixed World Heritage site:
- 43 sites in Africa
- 8 sites in Arab States
- 79 sites in Asia and the Pacific
- 76 sites in Europe and North America
- 46 sites in Latin America and the Caribbean
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is the world's oldest and largest global environmental organization. IUCN demonstrates how biodiversity is fundamental to addressing some of the world's greatest challenges such as climate change, sustainable development and food security.
IUCN was instrumental in founding the World Heritage Convention in 1972, as one of the two international organizations that first proposed the concept, and is explicitly recognized within the Convention as the technical Advisory Body to the World Heritage Committee on natural World Heritage sites.
IUCN's World Heritage Programme has supported the Convention since its establishment and mobilizes action across IUCN to promote natural World Heritage.
About IUCN WCPA
The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is the world's premier network of protected area expertise, with 2,500 members spanning 140 countries.
IUCN WCPA works by helping governments and others to plan protected areas and integrate them into all sectors; by providing strategic advice to policy makers; by strengthening capacity and investment in protected areas; and by convening the diverse constituency of protected area stakeholders to address challenging issues. For over 55 years, IUCN and WCPA have been at the forefront of global action on protected areas.
The contents of the Conservation Outlook Assessments are produced by IUCN and do not necessarily reflect the views of any contributing organization or individual.