The signatory countries of the Convention can propose the candidacy of new sites for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. To this end, each country must prepare an “inventory” of the main natural and cultural sites located in its territory, the Tentative List, which constitutes the list of properties that a State Party intends to register in the following years.

When applying, the State Party sends the nomination dossier to the World Heritage Centre. The Guidelines provide all the indications for the preparation of the dossier, which must be exhaustive and contain all the necessary documentation and cartography. The Centre carries out an initial check on the completeness of the documentation received, requesting any additions. If the documentation sent meets the completeness requirements within the established terms, it is forwarded to the advisory bodies for evaluation. The final decision on inscription rests with the World Heritage Committee. The Committee meets once a year to decide which sites will be inscribed on the World Heritage List. It can also decide to postpone the decision, requesting further information, or to deny inscription.

Starting from the year 2002, the World Heritage Committee decided to place a restriction on the inscription of new sites, limiting the requests admissible to a single candidacy for each State, within the maximum overall limit of 30 sites to be examined (in addition to sites deferred from previous years). As of 2004, the limit for each country has been raised to two nominations, of which at least one relating to natural heritage, while the maximum ceiling to be examined has been increased to 45 sites, including sites deferred from previous years.

From 2019 the number of nominations that each State can submit each year has returned to one, while the overall limit of nominations that the World Heritage Committee can examine is equal to a maximum of 35 for each year, including the nominations referred to the State party in previous years for insights, extensions, transactional and serial nominations. If the limit is exceeded, the priority criteria indicated in the Guidelines will be applied, which reward the States least represented in the List.

The work to prepare the nomination requires a preliminary study phase that allows adequate knowledge to be gained of the entire order of the World Heritage, in particular of the processes and requirements necessary for the inscription of a site. To this end, careful consultation of the following documents is recommended:

Inscription requirements

For a site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List, it must have exceptional universal value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria illustrated in the Guidelines for the application of the World Heritage Convention. The criteria are regularly updated by the Committee to reflect the evolution of the concept of World Heritage itself.

Until the end of 2004, World Heritage sites were chosen on the basis of six cultural criteria and four natural criteria. With the adoption of the latest version of the Guidelines, the criteria have been merged into a single list, valid for cultural and natural heritage, divided into ten points of which the first six refer to cultural heritage, and the last four to natural heritage.

The selection criteria are:

  • (i) represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
  • (ii) exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
  • (iii) bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared;
  • (iv) be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
  • (v) be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
  • (vi) be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
  • (vii) contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
  • (viii) be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
  • (ix) be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
  • (x) contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science or conservation.
  • (for the part on the Criteria, see the official version of the World Heritage Centre: and in particular, paragraph 77 of the Operational Guidelines)

To be deemed of Outstanding Universal Value, a property must also meet the conditions of integrity and/or authenticity and must have an adequate protection and management system to ensure its safeguarding.

Protection and management

Protection and management of World Heritage properties should ensure that their Outstanding Universal Value, including the conditions of integrity and/or authenticity at the time of inscription, are sustained or enhanced over time.

All properties inscribed on the World Heritage List must have adequate long-term legislative, regulatory, institutional and/or traditional protection and management to ensure their safeguarding.

Legislative and regulatory measures at national and local levels should assure the protection of the property from social, economic and other pressures or changes that might negatively impact the Outstanding Universal Value, including the integrity and/or authenticity of the property. States Parties should also assure the full and effective implementation of such measures.

Protection tools include the delineation of boundaries for the site. The boundary must be established at the time of the nomination request, in order to ensure the full expression of the values of the site and can coincide with one or more existing or proposed protected areas, such as national parks or natural reserves, biosphere reserves or cultural heritage, historic centres and landscapes protected by specific rules. For proper protection of the site, an adequately protected “buffer zone” must also be provided, which may include the context in which the property nominated for inscription is located, relevant landscapes and other functionally important areas of support for the site and its protection.

The Management Plan is the tool that describes the ways in which the site is managed, lays out the strategies identified and describes the related activities.

Italian tentative list

The Tentative List is the list of sites that, in implementation of the Convention, each State Party is required to present to the World Heritage Centre to notify of the properties it intends to inscribe over the next 5-10 years.

The first Italian Tentative List was sent to the World Heritage Centre in 1996. This was followed by a second full update in 2006. This second list also took into account the new conditions imposed by the World Heritage Centre. From the beginning of the 90s onwards, coinciding with the increase in the number of countries that ratified the Convention, the need arose to rebalance the composition of the List to increase the presence of properties (cultural or natural) belonging under-represented geographical areas or cultures and restrictions have been placed on the number of nominations that can be submitted each year.

The inclusion of a site in the Tentative List for at least a year is a necessary condition for starting the nomination process for the site.

If a site is not already present in the Italian Tentative List, it is possible to propose its inscription to the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, as a subject delegated to the coordination of all UNESCO Conventions.

The CNIU (Italian National Commission for UNESCO), in the case of cultural sites, will send the proposal to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, while for natural sites the competence is entrusted to the Ministry of the Environment; for mixed sites (cultural and natural) the application will be sent to both Ministries. The inscription application must be prepared according to the model prepared by the World Heritage Centre and must be accompanied by more detailed documentation that allows at least an initial assessment of the request received.

Referring to the definitions in the Guidelines, this documentation must therefore contain:

  • a) Demonstration of the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. It is necessary to provide a study that highlights the characteristics that make the property unique or of Outstanding Universal Value, in relation to the criteria defined in the Guidelines.
  • b) Comparative analysis. It is a detailed study that compares the proposed property with similar national and international properties. This analysis must demonstrate that the property to be nominated possesses outstanding values worldwide and not only locally or nationally.
  • c) Integrity, authenticity and state of conservation. It is necessary to illustrate the conditions of integrity and authenticity as defined in the Guidelines, as well as the state of conservation of the proposed property.
  • d) Protection tools. The properties included in the World Heritage List must be adequately protected. It is therefore necessary to verify the protection instruments in force at national or local level, also in order to identify the boundary of the property. The lack of effective protection rules makes it impossible to nominate a property.

For Italian cultural sites, the UNESCO Office of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (Service I of the General Secretariat) is the body responsible for verifying the completeness of the application and the site’s compliance with the inscription requirements. If necessary, it may also request further additions.

The Tentative List is periodically updated with any further inscription requests received, and sent to the World Heritage Centre. The inscription of a site on the Tentative List does not necessarily imply the subsequent inscription of the site on the World Heritage List.

Activation of the nomination

The request to inscribe a site on the World Heritage List can only be started if the site has already been on the Tentative List for at least a year. Every year, the complete proposals to be sent to the World Heritage Centre are selected at national level, according to the methods and within the limits set by the Guidelines.

For cultural sites, the body responsible for coordinating the investigation phase, i.e. checking the proposals received, is the UNESCO Office of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities (Service I of the General Secretariat). The office also directs and manages the technical-scientific activities necessary for

preparing nomination documents.

The nomination documents are the Dossier and the Management Plan. The Nomination Dossier must be prepared according to the Model attached to the Guidelines. A useful tool for the preparation of the Dossier is also the Operating Manual for the preparation of nominations for the World Heritage. The Dossier and the Management Plan represent the basis on which the Committee evaluates the inscription request.

The model includes the following sections:

  • Identification of the site
  • 2. Description of the site
  • 3. Justification for inscription
  • 4. State of conservation and factors affecting the site
  • 5. Protection and Management
  • 6. Monitoring
  • 7. Documentation
  • 8. Contact information of responsible authorities
  • 9. Signature on behalf of the the State Party(ies)

The document ends with the signature by the competent authority, which sends the request to the World Heritage Centre, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Responsibility for the protection of the site must be shared by all interested parties, including local and regional administrations, associations and non-governmental organisations and the local population, through a shared and participatory process.

Nomination phases

The nomination follows an evaluation process which starts from the submission of the Dossier to the World Heritage Centre up to the decision by the Committee, and is marked by the following phases:

1st Year

  • September 30: deadline for States to submit draft nominations. The sending of a draft proposal is at the discretion of the State Party but strongly suggested by the World Heritage Centre;
  • November 15: deadline by which the World Heritage Centre responds concerning the completeness of the draft proposals sent by September 30. If the proposal is incomplete, additions will be requested.

2nd year

  • February 1: deadline for sending complete requests. If a request arrives after this date it will be taken into consideration the following year;
  • March 1: deadline by which the World Heritage Centre verifies the documentation received and informs the State Party about the completeness of the Nomination Dossier. The complete nominations are sent for evaluation to the Advisory Bodies, which carry out the necessary checks based on the documentation sent and the inspections carried out.

3rd year

  • January 31: deadline by which the Advisory Bodies send a medium-term report in which they can request the sending of further information;
  • February 28: deadline within which any required additions must be sent;
  • 6 weeks before the annual session of the World Heritage Committee: the Advisory Bodies send their evaluation;
  • June/July: annual session of the World Heritage Committee: the Committee examines nominations and decides on new inscriptions.

This schedule starts from the completion of the preliminary study phase necessary to start the procedure.