A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a specific site (such as a forest, mountain range, lake, desert, building, complex, or city) that has been nominated–and confirmed–for inclusion on the list maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
The programme aims to catalogue, name, and preserve sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humankind. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The programme was founded with the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since then, 182 state parties (countries) have ratified the convention.
As of 2005, a total of 812 sites are listed: 628 cultural, 160 natural, and 24 mixed properties, in 137 state parties. UNESCO references each World Heritage Site with a unique identification number; but new inscriptions often include previous sites now listed as part of larger descriptions. As a result, the numbering system currently ends above 1100, even though there are fewer on the actual list.
Each World Heritage Site is the property of the country on whose territory the site is located, but it is considered in the interest of the international community to preserve each site for future generations of humankind. The protection and conservation of these sites are a concern of all the World Heritage countries.