1972 World Heritage Convention

DoD’s cultural resources policy and environmental regulations require that all operations and undertakings comply with the terms of The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, commonly known as the 1972 World Heritage Convention. The purpose of the Convention is to identify and conserve sites and properties of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity and catalogue these properties and sites in an internationally recognized list known as The World Heritage List.

DoD compliance with the 1972 World Heritage Convention is enforceable under Title 16 U.S. Code § 470A-1, which includes a 1980 amendment to the National Historic Preservation Act, incorporating the 1972 World Heritage Convention into U.S. Law.

To comply with this international agreement, before approving any undertaking, DoD must: 

  • (1) take into account, and have a documented process for determining, whether the proposed operation or undertaking will have an adverse effect to a World Heritage List property;
  • (2) give notice of such effect to affected parties to the degree possible; and
  • (3) consider alternatives to mitigate such effect.

The United States initiated the idea of identifying and conserving cultural and natural properties of outstanding importance at a White House conference held in 1965, which called for a ‘World Heritage Trust’ to preserve “the world’s superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry.” This proposal and similar initiatives, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (source), were presented to a United Nations conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. Final text of the Convention was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.

To date, 190 states party have signed or ratified the Convention, making it one of the most widely accepted of all international instruments. Only Liechtenstein, Somalia, South Sudan, the Bahamas, Nauru, Timor-Leste and Tuvalu are not Party to the Convention.


Click to view the official text of the 1972 World Heritage Convention. Courtesy: UNESCO.

Every COCOM AOR includes World Heritage List properties, which must be protected pursuant to the 1972 World Heritage ConventionMilCHAG offers one-click access to the 981 World Heritage List properties around the world. Procedures must be in place to avoid causing direct and adverse effects to World Heritage List properties during DoD operations or undertakings.