World Heritage

World Heritage Actors in Germany

Though the protection and preservation of World Heritage sites is the responsibility of the entire international community, each State Party to the World Heritage convention is responsible for the identification, protection and conservation of World Heritage in its respective country.

In Germany, this responsibility is shared between the federal and state governments. Furthermore, a variety of other stakeholders at different levels are involved in the field of World Heritage, such as federal ministries, local authorities, municipal administrations, educational institutions and civil society players, as well as the German Commission for UNESCO.


Federal Foreign Office

The Federal Foreign Office, the foreign ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany, is responsible for Germany's cooperation with UNESCO. Through its permanent delegation, it represents Germany's interests before UNESCO in Paris and participates in the meetings of the implementing bodies of the World Heritage Convention (the World Heritage Committee and the General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention). Within the framework of the cultural relations and education policy of the Federal Foreign Office, it coordinates Germany's positions on UNESCO topics and represents them on UNESCO committees. Important UNESCO events organised by the Federal Foreign Office with the support of the German Commission for UNESCO have included the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn (2015) or the International Expert Meeting “Emergency Safeguarding of Syria's Cultural Heritage” in Berlin (June 2016).

Federal Foreign Office


Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder

The protection and maintenance of cultural monuments in Germany is the responsibility of the federal states of Germany (Länder). This includes the selection procedure and the subsequent elaboration of a nomination dossier for potential World Heritage sites, as well as the protection, maintenance and management of a World Heritage site. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder merges the proposals for nomination to the World Heritage List, coming from the federal states and including potential natural World Heritage sites, to form one single German Tentative List. This national Tentative List is the basis for Germany´s future nominations for the World Heritage list.

Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder


Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) is responsible for nominating natural heritage sites in Germany for the World Heritage list.

The BMUB supports the World Heritage programme at national and international levels in close cooperation with the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). The BfN's International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA, on the island of Vilm) is an important player concerning cooperation and sharing expertise for the protection of natural World Heritage sites.



Further Ministries

Besides the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), further support for specific programmes and projects at selected World Heritage sites comes from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM), the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). These bodies are also involved in any issues concerning the World Heritage Convention which fall within their respective remit.


German Commission for UNESCO

In the field of World Heritage, the German Commission for UNESCO, with its Division for World Heritage, is primarily a national centre for information, knowledge transfer and documentation which brings together technical and political expertise to support the successful German contribution to the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. It seeks to strengthen the dialogue between government and civil society and aims to encourage national projects in the spirit of UNESCO’s objectives. Therefore, it provides information and qualification programmes, promotes cooperation between stakeholders in Germany and supports international networking and cooperation.

The German Commission for UNESCO, acting on behalf of the German Federal Government, is responsible for all questions relating to the use of the logo, including the signet, the name and acronym of UNESCO as well as the signets of UNESCO conventions and programmes.

The German Commission for UNESCO pursues its objectives concerning World Heritage in close coordination with all key stakeholders of Germany's federal and state governments, and with civil society. In this context, close cooperation with the Representative for World Heritage of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder is of particular significance. The activities of the German Commission for UNESCO can be explored here.


World Heritage Sites in Germany

The agencies responsible for managing World Heritage properties comprise all the authorised public bodies which form the site’s administrative system, as designated in the nomination dossier. The site’s management system keeps in close contact with the responsible Ministry of the respective Land, especially when it comes to questions concerning the protection and conservation of the site. According to the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, all World Heritage sites are called upon to communicate their Outstanding Universal Value to the public and to offer educational programmes, especially for children and adolescents.


Civil Society

As with other aspects of societal life in Germany, civil society involvement in the topic of protection of monuments and nature has a broad base. The UNESCO World Heritage Convention, too, benefits from these circumstances. Especially in situations of conflicting interests, it becomes clear that members of the public take an active interest in “their” World Heritage. Time and again, citizens' initiatives are formed when local communities see “their” World Heritage site threatened by development or other measures.

Apart from civil engagement, the main advocates of World Heritage are non-governmental organisations such as the German National Committee of ICOMOS, Europa Nostra or the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). Besides these, there are numerous associations dedicated to individual World Heritage sites. Many World Heritage sites in Germany have also set up their own foundations for the conservation of the site, providing information about their World Heritage site and acquiring funds for its maintenance. All these civil society initiatives contribute to the vitality and constant renewal of the World Heritage concept. For all of these players, the German Commission for UNESCO is the first point of contact.


German World Heritage Sites Association

Founded in 2001, the German World Heritage Sites Association is a registered association based in Quedlinburg (Germany). It is a forum for German World Heritage sites and their respective tourist organisations. It aims to increase awareness of Germany’s World Heritage sites and to provide advice on matters of tourist marketing – with a special emphasis on sustainable tourism. Moreover, increasing emphasis is being placed on networking with other World Heritage associations at the European level in order to position the associations as important civil society players when it comes to national and European World Heritage. The association collaborates closely with the German Commission for UNESCO.

German World Heritage Sites Association

Additional article

European Cooperation
Teilnehmde des 3. Treffens der Europäischen Welterbestätten-Vereine in Lübeck

Our Contribution

European Cooperation

Heritage is crucial for the European idea. Through cultural heritage, especially, people discover their shared history and learn from the past. In order to understand World Heritage sites not only as national entities, isolated from each other, but as vital parts of a larger picture which transcends national boundaries, the focus on links between cultures is becoming increasingly important.
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