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World Heritage in Portugal

World Heritage in Portugal

The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted at the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1972. To date, over 186 countries have signed the Convention, making it one of the most adhered to international legal instruments for the protection of the cultural and natural heritage.

Portugal signed the Convention in 1979, according to Decree no. 49/79, of 6 June and, as a Member State, it adopts a heritage conservation code of ethics as established by the Operational Guidelines for Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.

Out of UNESCO’s 962 World Heritage sites, 745 are cultural, 188 are natural and 29 are mixed properties, 15 of which are located in Portugal.

For further information, please go to: http://whc.unesco.org

The World Heritage Convention defines the kind of natural or cultural sites which can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List, and sets out the duties of State parties in identifying potential sites and their role in protecting and preserving them. By signing the Convention, each country pledges to conserve not only the World Heritage sites situated on its territory, but also to protect its cultural and natural heritage.  

The Convention has the following organs:

  • General Assembly, comprising all State parties, meets every two years;
  • “Committee”, comprising 21 State parties elected by the General Assembly, meets annually;
  • “Bureau”, consists of seven State parties elected by the Committee to prepare its decisions.

 The World Heritage Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and for deciding on the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List. It examines reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties and asks State parties to take action when properties are not being properly managed. The Committee is also responsible for allocating World Heritage Funds to properties needing conservation or restoration, providing emergency assistance in case of immediate danger or for promotional or educational assistance.

Being a State Party to the Convention and a Committee member involves a number of responsibilities, such as developing a heritage conservation code of ethics.  To promote this code of ethics equitably is the greatest challenge, particularly at a time when economic globalisation leads all nations to an accelerated development rhythm with little concern for its future consequences. 

The Operational Guidelines for Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, already available in Portuguese, aim to facilitate the implementation of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, by setting forth the procedure for:

  • the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  • the protection and conservation of World Heritage properties;
  • the granting of International Assistance under the World Heritage Fund; and
  • the mobilization of national and international support in favor of the Convention.

The Operational Guidelines are periodically revised to reflect the decisions of the World Heritage Committee.