Skip to main content Accessibility help

Naming, Shaming and Fire Alarms: The Compilation, Development and Use of the List of World Heritage in Danger

  • Herdis Hølleland (a1), Evan Hamman (a2) and Jessica Phelps (a3)

This article provides a comprehensive empirical analysis of the composition, development and use of the List of World Heritage in Danger (IDL) under the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The statutory records of this Convention have been coded in order to generate an overview of the development and use of the IDL between 1978 and 2017. The quantitative data was further developed by reference to World Heritage and transnational law literature. A key finding of this article is that the IDL serves a dual purpose in regulation: firstly, as a ‘fire alarm’ to alert the international community of imminent dangers at World Heritage sites; secondly, as a non-compliance procedure used for ‘naming and shaming’ states that breach the rules. The findings in this article have relevance for heritage scholars and policy makers concerned with the governance of World Heritage as well as those with a broader interest in non-compliance procedures under transnational environmental law.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Naming, Shaming and Fire Alarms: The Compilation, Development and Use of the List of World Heritage in Danger
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Naming, Shaming and Fire Alarms: The Compilation, Development and Use of the List of World Heritage in Danger
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Naming, Shaming and Fire Alarms: The Compilation, Development and Use of the List of World Heritage in Danger
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Hide All

1 Paris (France), 16 Nov. 1972, in force 17 Dec. 1975, available at: or

2 Research on the WHC spans from archaeology and anthropology to economy, geography, history, law, political science and tourism studies. Archaeological contributions include, e.g., Meskell, L., A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (Oxford University Press, 2018); anthropological contributions include, e.g., Brumann, C. & Berliner, D. (eds), World Heritage on the Ground: Ethnographic Perspectives (Berghahn Books, 2016); economic contributions include, e.g., Bertacchini, E. & Saccone, D., ‘Toward a Political Economy of World Heritage’ (2012) 36(4) Journal of Cultural Economics, pp. 327352 ; geographical contributions include, e.g., Aplin, G., ‘Kakadu National Park World Heritage Site: Deconstructing the Debate, 1997–2003’ (2004) 42(2) Australian Geographical Studies, pp. 152174 ; historical contributions include, e.g., Gfeller, A.E., ‘Negotiating the Meaning of Global Heritage: “Cultural Landscapes” in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, 1972–1992’ (2013) 8(3) Journal of Global History, pp. 483503 ; the legal literature includes Francioni, F. & Lenzerini, F. (eds), The 1972 World Heritage Convention: A Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2008); the political science literature includes, e.g., Maswood, J.S., ‘Kakadu and the Politics of World Heritage Listing’ (2000) 54(3) Australian Journal of International Affairs, pp. 357372 ; and tourism literature includes, e.g., Adie, B.A. & Hall, C.M., ‘Who Visits World Heritage? A Comparative Analysis of Three Cultural Sites’ (2016) 12(1) Journal of Heritage Tourism , pp. 1–14 – to name but a few examples from different fields of research.

3 The World Heritage Committee is a rotating body comprising 21 states parties to the WHC. Today, committee members tend to sit for 4 years. The work of the Committee is coordinated by the Bureau, a rotating body of 7 of the members. The Committee operates according to Rules of Procedure that have been updated on a regular basis since 1977. A full overview is available at:

4 The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) serve as the Committee’s advisory bodies. The focus area of the ICCROM and ICOMOS is cultural heritage whereas that of the IUCN is natural heritage. The IUCN and ICOMOS evaluate World Heritage nominations and the Committee acts on their advice.

5 UNESCO, ‘Legal Consideration concerning the Inscription of Properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger and the Deletion of Properties from the World Heritage List (2002)’, WHC-02/CONF.202/8, pp. 3–4.

6 These guidelines have been revised regularly since they were first introduced in 1977. The most recent version is from 2017: UNESCO, ‘Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention’, 2017, available at:

7 UNESCO, n. 5 above, p. 4.

8 UNESCO, n. 6 above, paras 179(a) and 180(a).

9 Ibid., paras 179(b) and 180(b).

10 Ibid., para. 180(b).

11 Affolder, N., ‘Democratising or Demonising the World Heritage Convention?’ (2007) 38(2) Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, pp. 341361 .

12 Battini, S., ‘The Procedural Side of Legal Globalization: The Case of the World Heritage Convention’ (2011) 9(2) International Journal of Constitutional Law, pp. 340368 ; Goodwin, E.J., ‘The World Heritage Convention, the Environment, and Compliance’ (2009) 20(2) Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, pp. 157198 .

13 Battini, ibid.; Brumann, C. & Berliner, D., ‘Introduction: World Heritage – Grounded?’, in Brumann & Berliner, n. 2 above, pp. 134 , at 10; Boer, B., ‘Article 3 Identification and Delineation of World Heritage Properties’, in Francioni & Lenzerini, n. 2 above, pp. 85102 ; Frey, B.S. & Steiner, L., ‘World Heritage List: Does It Make Sense? (2011) 17(5) International Journal of Cultural Policy, pp. 555573 ; Hamman, E., ‘The Role of Non-state Actors in Promoting Compliance with the World Heritage Convention: An Empirical Study of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef’ (PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology (Australia), 2017), available at: ; Hølleland, H., ‘Practicing World Heritage: Approaching the Changing Faces of the World Heritage Convention’ (PhD thesis, University of Oslo (Norway), 2013), available at: ; Marsden, S., ‘Australian World Heritage in Danger’ (2014) 31(3) Environmental and Planning Law Journal, pp. 192209 .

14 Hølleland, ibid., p. 73; Hølleland, H., ‘Mt Ruapehu’s Looming Lahar: Exploring Mechanisms of Compliance in the World Heritage Regime’, in H. Hølleland & S. Solheim (eds), Between Dream and Reality: Debating the Impact of World Heritage Listing – Primitive Tider Special Edition 2014 (Reprosentralen, 2014), pp. 7592 .

15 E.g., Aplin, n. 2 above; Maswood, n. 2 above.

16 Pedersen, A., Managing Tourism at World Heritage Sites: A Practical Manual for World Heritage Site Managers (ICOMOS, 2002); Boer, n. 13 above, p. 101.

17 Goodwin, n. 12 above, p. 170.

18 For Australia’s position see Australian Government, ‘Australia’s Kakadu: Protecting World Heritage: Response by the Australian Government to UNESCO World Heritage Committee regarding Kakadu National Park’, Apr. 1999, p. xiv, available at: For the US, see United States Government, ‘Position of the United State [sic] of America on Climate Change with respect to the World Heritage Convention and World Heritage Sites’, 2006, available at:

19 E.g., Maswood, n. 2 above; Aplin, n. 2 above.

20 See the decision of the Committee in 2003 to refuse the introduction of a ‘veto power’ regarding proposed inscriptions on the IDL: World Heritage Committee, ‘Decisions Adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 6th Extraordinary Session’, 27 May 2003, WHC-03/6 EXT.COM/8. See also Battini, n. 12 above; B. Gaillard, ‘The Legal Effects of World Heritage Listing under the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage: The Example of the Dresden Elbe Valley in the Federal Republic of Germany’, in Hølleland & Solheim, n. 14 above, pp. 37–48, at 44.

21 Litton, S., ‘The World Heritage “In Danger” Listing as a Taking’ (2011) 44(1) New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, pp. 219265 , at 265.

22 On the emergence of GAL and its key attributes, see Kingsbury, B., Krisch, N. & Stewart, R.B., ‘The Emergence of Global Administrative Law’ (2005) 68(3) Law and Contemporary Problems, pp. 1561 . For a more recent contribution on the topic of GAL, see Cassese, S. (ed.), Research Handbook on Global Administrative Law (Edward Elgar, 2016).

23 UNESCO, n. 6 above, para. 169.

24 Ibid., paras 170–71.

25 E.g., Bertacchini, E., Liuzza, C. & Meskell, L., ‘Shifting the Balance of Power in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee: An Empirical Assessment’ (2017) 23(3) International Journal of Cultural Policy, pp. 331351 ; Bertacchini, E. et al., ‘The Politicization of UNESCO World Heritage Decision Making’ (2016) 167(1) Public Choice, pp. 95129 ; Bertacchini & Saccone, n. 2 above; Frey & Steiner, n. 13 above; Frey, B.S., Pamini, P. & Steiner, L., ‘Explaining the World Heritage List: An Empirical Study’ (2013) 60(1) International Review of Economics, pp. 119 ; Hølleland, H. & Phelps, J., ‘Becoming a Conservation “Good Power”: Norway’s Early World Heritage History’ (2018) International Journal of Cultural Policy, doi 10.1080/10286632.2018.1431223 ; Labadi, S., ‘Representations of the Nation and Cultural Diversity in Discourses on World Heritage’ (2007) 7(2) Journal of Social Archaeology, pp. 147170 ; Meskell, L. et al., ‘Multilateralism and UNESCO World Heritage: Decision-making States Parties and Political Processes’ (2015) 21(5) International Journal of Heritage Studies, pp. 423440 ; Meskell, L., Liuzza, C. & Brown, N., ‘World Heritage Regionalism: UNESCO from Europe to Asia’ (2015) 22(4) International Journal of Cultural Property, pp. 437470 ; Reyes, V., ‘The Production of Cultural and Natural Wealth: An Examination of World Heritage Sites’ (2014) 44 Poetics, pp. 4263 ; Steiner, L. & Frey, B.S., ‘Correcting the Imbalance of the World Heritage List: Did the UNESCO Strategy Work?’ (2012) 3(1) Journal of International Organizations Studies, pp. 2540 .

26 UNESCO, ‘World Heritage List Statistics (2017)’, available at:

27 All session records are available at: Session records include State of Conservation reports.

28 At present, two sites have been removed: Arabian Oryx Sanctuary and Dresden Elbe Valley, removed in 2007 and 2009 respectively.

29 Included in the analysis is therefore the IDL as of the 41st session of the Committee. Following the 42nd session in July 2018, one site has been added (Lake Turkana National Parks, Kenya: World Heritage Committee Decision 42 COM 7B.92) and one removed (Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, Belize: World Heritage Committee Decision 42 COM 7A.43).

30 Saldana, J., The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers (Sage, 2015), p. 3 (a code refers to a singular word, or a short phrase captures the essence of language or visual data).

31 Ibid., p. 4.

32 Datacracker was available at: Since the analysis was completed Displayr has replaced Datacracker. Displayr is available at:

33 Aplin, n. 2 above; Hamman, n. 13 above; Maswood, n. 2 above; Meskell, L., ‘States of Conservation: Protection, Politics, and Pacting within UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee’ (2014) 87(1) Anthropological Quarterly, pp. 217243 ; Meskell, n. 2 above. Additional discussions on threats may be seen in Gaillard, n. 20 above; Gaillard, B. & Rodwell, D., ‘A Failure of Process? Comprehending the Issues Fostering Heritage Conflict in Dresden Elbe Valley and Liverpool: Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Sites’ (2015) 6(1) The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice, pp. 1640 ; von Schorlemer, S., ‘Compliance with the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: Reflections on the Elbe Valley and the Dresden Waldschlösschen Bridge’ (2008) 51 German Yearbook of International Law, pp. 321390 ; Zacharias, D., ‘Cologne Cathedral versus Skyscrapers: Cultural Heritage Protection as Archetype of a Multilevel System’ (2006) 10 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, pp. 273366 .

34 E.g., Cleere, H., ‘The Uneasy Bedfellows: Universality and Cultural Heritage’, in R. Layton, P.G. Stone & J. Thomas (eds), Destruction and Conservation of Cultural Property (Routledge, 2001), pp. 2229 ;

Labadi, n. 25 above; Meskell, n. 2 above; Steiner & Frey, n. 25 above.

35 UNESCO, n. 26 above.

36 E.g., Bertacchini & Saccone, n. 2 above, p. 339; Bertacchini et al., n. 25 above.

37 UNESCO, n. 26 above.

38 Bertacchini & Saccone, n. 2 above, p. 333; see also Meskell et al., n. 25 above, p. 429.

39 The relationship between state party requests and Committee membership at the time of the request positively correlates on only two occasions. This is the case with the 2012 In Danger listings of two Malian sites. The other time this has happened is in the case of the Old City of Jerusalem, but the listing of Jerusalem on the World Heritage List and the IDL were proposed by Jordan and not the state party itself. Finally, there were two cases where it was unclear who requested the In Danger listing.

40 E.g., Joy, C., ‘“UNESCO is What?” World Heritage, Militant Islam and the Search for a Common Humanity in Mali’, in Brumann & Berliner (eds), n. 2 above, pp. 6077 ; Meskell, n. 2 above; Meskell, L., ‘World Heritage and WikiLeaks’ (2016) 57(1) Current Anthropology, pp. 7295 ; Winter, T., ‘Heritage Diplomacy: Entangled Materialities of International Relations’ (2016) 13(1) Future Anterior, pp. 1634 .

41 E.g., Brosché, J. et al., ‘Heritage under Attack: Motives for Targeting Cultural Property during Armed Conflict’ (2016) 23(3) International Journal of Heritage Studies, pp. 248260 .

42 UNESCO, n. 5 above, p. 3.

43 UNESCO, Item 4.7.1 of the Provisional Agenda: Revision of the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 139 EX/29, 8 Apr. 1992, available at:

44 UNESCO, Item 5.5.2 of the Provisional Agenda: Report by the Director-General on the Reinforcement of UNESCO’s Action for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 140EX/13, 4 Sept. 1992, available at:

45 E.g., Meskell, n. 2 above. Recent cases to which she draws attention include those relating to Cambodia’s Temple of Preah Vihear (bordering Thailand), Turkey’s Ani Archaeological Site (bordering Armenian territory), Japan’s ‘Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining’ (tension over Chinese and Korean forced labour during the Second World War).

46 Meskell, L., ‘UNESCO’s World Heritage at 40’ (2013) 54(4) Current Anthropology, pp. 483494 , at 492.

47 Choay, F. The Invention of the Historic Monument (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

48 Aplin, n. 2 above; Hamman, n. 13 above; Maswood, n. 2 above; Meskell, n. 2 above; Meskell, n. 33 above; Gaillard & Rodwell, n. 33 above; von Schorlemer, n. 33 above; Zacharias, n. 33 above.

49 World Heritage Committee Decision 30 COM 7B.46.

50 World Heritage Committee Decision 31 COM 7B.98.

51 World Heritage Committee Decision 32 COM 7B.12.

52 World Heritage Committee Decision 33 COM 7B.41.

53 World Heritage Committee Decision 34 COM 7B.81.

54 World Heritage Committee Decision 35 COM 7B.10.

55 See the case of Wood Buffalo National Park (Canada) (World Heritage Committee Decision 39 COM 7B.18) and also the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) where the threat of In Danger was specifically raised against Australia (World Heritage Committee Decision 38 COM 7B.63).

56 For a discussion of several failed petitions relating to World Heritage sites and climate change, see E. Hamman, ‘The Role of NGOs in Monitoring Compliance under the World Heritage Convention: Options for an Improved Tripartite Regime’, in C. Voigt (ed.), International Judicial Practice in the Environment: Questions of Legitimacy (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2019).

57 Regulation has a variety of definitions, but three elements of standard setting, monitoring and enforcement seem to be present in most definitions: see Levi-Faur, D., ‘Regulation and Regulatory Governance’, in D. Levi-Faur (ed.), Handbook on the Politics of Regulation (Edward Elgar, 2011), pp. 321 , at 6; and Hutter, B., ‘The Role of Non-State Actors in Regulation’ (2006) CARR Discussion Papers , DP 37 (referring to the third element (enforcement) as some form of ‘behaviour modification’).

58 Heyvaert, V., ‘The Transnationalization of Law: Rethinking Law through Transnational Environmental Regulation’ (2017) 6(2) Transnational Environmental Law, pp. 205236 .

59 Djelic, M.-L. & Sahlin-Anderson, K., ‘Introduction: A World of Governance: The Rise of Transnational Regulation’, in M.-L. Djelic & K. Sahlin-Anderson (eds), Transnational Governance: Institutional Dynamics of Regulation (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 128 .

60 See, e.g., Geeraerts, G., ‘Analyzing Non-State Actors in World Politics’ (1995) 1(4) Pole Paper Series , available at:; Bernstein, S. & Cashore, B., ‘Can Non-State Global Governance be Legitimate? An Analytical Framework’ (2007) 1(4) Regulation & Governance, pp. 347371 ; Black, J., ‘Enrolling Actors in Regulatory Processes: Examples from UK Financial Services Regulation’ (2003) 62 Public Law, pp. 6391 ; Grabosky, P., ‘Beyond Responsive Regulation: The Expanding Role of Non-State Actors in the Regulatory Process’ (2013) 7(1) Regulation & Governance, pp. 114123 . On the topic of non-state actors in environmental regulation see Arts, B., ‘Non-State Actors in Global Environmental Governance: New Arrangements Beyond the State’, in M. Koenig-Archibugi & M. Zürn (eds), New Modes of Governance in the Global System: Exploring Publicness, Delegation and Inclusiveness (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 177200 . In relation to cultural heritage, which the World Heritage Convention also covers, see Chechi, A., ‘Non-State Actors and Cultural Heritage: Friends or Foes?’ (2015) 19 Anuario de la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, pp. 457479 .

61 See Gunningham, N., Grabosky, P. & Sinclair, D., Smart Regulation (Clarendon Press, 1998).

62 Hopenhayn, H. & Lohmann, S., ‘Fire Alarm Signals and the Political Oversight of Regulatory Agencies’, (1996) 12(1) Journal of Law, Economics and Organisation, pp. 196213 .

63 McCubbins, M.D. & Schwartz, T., ‘Congressional Oversight Overlooked: Police Patrols versus Fire Alarms’ (1984) 28(1) American Journal of Political Science, pp. 165179 .

64 Ibid., p. 166.

65 Abbott, K.W., Levi-Faur, D. & Snidal, D., ‘Theorizing Regulatory Intermediaries: The RIT Model’ (2017) 670(1) Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, pp. 1435 , at 27.

66 Enrolment is a theory of regulation, principally developed by Julia Black, whereby non-state actors are used to play a role in regulation (standard setting, monitoring and enforcement) which might otherwise be reserved for a state: Black, n. 60 above.

67 Hamman, above n. 13, p. 72.

68 Rebgetz, L. & Gartry, L., ‘Great Barrier Reef to Get $500m to Tackle Pollution and Breed More Resilient Coral’, ABC News, 29 Apr. 2018 , available at:$500m-package-to-preserve-area/9708230.

69 For the importance of non-state actors in transnational environmental regulation, see Heyvaert, V., ‘What’s in a Name? The Covenant of Mayors as Transnational Environmental Regulation’ (2013) 22(1) Review of European, Comparative and International Environmental Law, pp. 7890 ; see also Heyvaert, n. 58 above.

70 Cafaggi, F., ‘Transnational Private Regulation: Regulating Global Private Regulators’, in S. Cassese (ed.), n. 22 above, pp. 212241 , at 212.

71 Hamman, E., ‘The Influence of Environmental NGOs on Project Finance: A Case Study of Activism, Development and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef’ (2016) 6(1) Journal of Sustainable Finance and Investment, pp. 5166 .

72 Green, J., ‘Transnational Delegation in Global Environmental Governance: When Do Non-State Actors Govern?12(2) Regulation & Governance, pp. 263276 .

73 On this principle, see F. Francioni & F. Lenzerini, ‘The Future of the World Heritage Convention: Problems and Prospects’, in Francioni & Lenzerini, n. 2 above, pp. 401–10, at 402.

74 Hamman, n. 13 above, pp. 78–80.

75 For a discussion of erga omnes under international law, see Bassiouni, M.C., ‘International Crimes: Jus Cogens and Obligatio Erga Omnes’ (1996) 59(4) Law & Contemporary Problems, pp. 6374 ; Tams, C.J., Enforcing Obligations Erga Omnes in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

76 Arguments have been made that it also allows states to enforce the Convention against other states, e.g. in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). See, e.g., Green Martinez, S., ‘Locus Standi Before the International Court of Justice for Violations of the World Heritage Convention’ (2013) 5(1) Transnational Dispute Management, pp. 110 .

77 McCubbins & Schwartz, n. 63 above, p. 168.

78 Van Erp, J., ‘Reputational Sanctions in Private and Public Regulation’ (2007) 1(5) Erasmus Law Review, pp. 145162 , at 145.

79 On compliance pull theory in international law see Franck, T., ‘Legitimacy in the International System’ (1988) 82(4) American Journal of International Law, pp. 705759 . For elements which may be reflected in the World Heritage system, see Goodwin, n. 12 above.

80 See, e.g., Downs, G.W. & Jones, M.A., ‘Reputation, Compliance, and International Law’ (2002) 31(2) Journal of Legal Studies, pp. 95114 , at 97. For another theory on rational choice see Guzman, A., How International Law Works: A Rational Choice Theory (Oxford University Press, 2008).

81 Guzman, ibid., p. 596.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Transnational Environmental Law
  • ISSN: 2047-1025
  • EISSN: 2047-1033
  • URL: /core/journals/transnational-environmental-law
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed