Nowadays it is recognized by nearly the whole world that cultural and Natural treasures do not belong just to the countries in which they are located but are instead the priceless and common property of all humanity.
The question of especially protecting such treasures against the dangers that threaten them became a matter of concern for UNESCO in the 1970’s and work to that end was then begun.
As a result of its efforts, a Convention concerning, the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted in 1972 by the countries that were UNESCO members. A hundred and seventeen countries are now signatory to this convention, which aims at identifying, safeguarding, and restoring this heritage. Turkey became a party to the agreement in 1983.
A World Heritage Committee, consisting of 21 member nations, has been set up to oversee implementation of the convention. One-third of this committee’s membership is renewed at the UNESCO general conference held every other year.
The committee has three principal duties:
- It identifies cultural and natural assets that possess extraordinary and universal value and needs to be protected within the framework of the convention’s provisions by making selections from candidates put up by member nations and it adds it then to the World Heritage List.
- It decides which of the entries on the World Heritage List are to be included in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
- It determines the conditions and form of use of the World Heritage Fund.
Turkey, a land bridge joining the Asian and European continents, is richly endowed with a cultural mosaic of the various civilizations that have inhabited the soil of Anatolia since 8000 BC and with matchless natural beauties. The Hattis, Trojans, Hittites, Hurrians, Urartus, Phrygians, Lydians, Carians, Lycians, Ionians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans who dwelt in Anatolia in different eras all left behind countless exquisite works. These works are the common heritage of human history.
Turkey has signed the World Heritage Convention in 1983 and through the work carried out under the responsibility of the General Directorate for the Preservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage has so far registered 9 locations on the World Heritage List.
Other sites which are new candidates and for which documentation is still in progress are more than 72 sites.
- Historic Areas of Istanbul (1985)
- Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia (1985)
- Great Mosque and Hospital of Divrigi (1985)
- Hattusha: the Hittite Capital (1986)
- Nemrut Mountain (1987)
- Xanthos-Letoon (1988)
- Hierapolis-Pamukkale (1988)
- City of Safranbolu (1994)
- Archaeological Site of Troy (1998)
- Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex (2011)
- Neolithic Site of Catalhoyuk (2012)
- Bursa and Cumalikizik: the Birth of the Ottoman Empire (2014)
- Pergamon and its Multi-Layered Cultural Landscape (2014)
- Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape (2015)
- Ephesus (2015)
- Archaeological Site of Ani (2016)
- Aphrodisias (2017)