1972 World Heritage Convention


1972 World Heritage

Fiji ratified the1972 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites in 1990 making it the first South Pacific state to do so! Ratifying a Convention comes with obligations for Fiji and this includes participation at World Heritage Committee meetings by culture officials and at the UNESCO General Assembly by Fiji’s Minister for Education (National Heritage & Culture).

  • Brief
  • State Party Obligations
  • Convention Governing Bodies
    1. UNESCO General Assembly
    2. World Heritage Committee
      1. Secretariat
      2. Advisory bodies
  • Partnership in the protection of World Heritage
UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Fiji recently celebrated the inscription of the Historical Port Town of Levuka as its FIRST UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other sites in the Pacific that have been listed included:

  • Chief Roimata’s Domain (Vanuatu)
  • East Renell (Solomon Islands)
  • Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati)
  • Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site (Marshall Islands)
  • Kuk Early Agricultural Site (Papua New Guinea)
? List of current world heritage sites (by region)? Tentative List of Sites

? Nomination Process

? Evaluation of nomination

? Listing

Fiji World Heritage

Prior to submission of a nomination, a state party needs to have a tentative list of sites which is approved by World Heritage Centre. [See Fiji’s Tentative List]

To be listed as a World Heritage Site, a state party has to go through rigorous process of preparation of a nomination, evaluation, and should it be successful, the actual listing of the nominated site.

? Ratification of convention? Fiji World Heritage Council

? Secretariat (committee & convention)

? Fiji National Register

? Fiji Potential Heritage Places

? UNESCO-Fiji Tentative List

? Fiji Heritage Decree

? Fiji World Heritage Policy

Fiji World Heritage Projects

Fiji’s ratification of the 1972 Convention inundated government with numerous responsibilities including the setting up of the Fiji World Heritage Council, designation of the Department of National Heritage, Culture & Arts as the Fiji Secretariat to the Convention as well as the Council and other implementation requirements including world heritage education.

Fiji has recently submitted and successfully inscribed its first World Heritage Site Nomination: the Levuka Historical Port Town.

? Nomination of Levuka Historical Port Town

? Ovalau Skills Development Workshops

? Levuka Heritage Clinic

? Ovalau/Levuka Heritage Places Conservation

? Ovalau Community Communication

Educating young people on world heritage

Other sites listed in Fiji’s tentative list will be considered after the Levuka nomination.

1972 World Heritage Convention
1972 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites

What does the Convention stipulate?

The Cultural and natural heritage is among the priceless and irreplaceable assets, not only of each nation, but of humanity as a whole. The loss, through deterioration and disappearance, of any of these most prized assets constitutes an impoverishment of the heritage of all the peoples of the world. Parts of that heritage, because of their exceptional qualities, can be considered to be of “Outstanding Universal Value” and as such worthy of special protection against the dangers which increasingly threaten them.

Since the adoption of the Convention in 1972, the international community has embraced the concept of “sustainable development”. The protection and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage are a significant contribution to sustainable development.”

The Convention aims at the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value.

The criteria and conditions for the inscription of properties on the World Heritage List have been developed to evaluate the Outstanding Value of properties and to guide States Parties in the protection and management of World Heritage properties.

When a property inscribed on the World Heritage List is threatened by serious and specific dangers, the Committee considers placing it on the List of World Heritage in danger. When the Outstanding Universal Value of the property which justified its inscription on the World Heritage list is destroyed, the Committee considers deleting the property from the World Heritage list.

View the 1972 Convention for World Heritage.

Ratification & State Party Obligations

States are encouraged to become party to the Convention. To do this, countries have to complete the instrument for ratification/ acceptance and accession, signed by the Head of State and send to the Director – General of UNESCO. Fiji had done this in 1990.
List of the current state parties to the 1972 UNESCO Convention http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties.

By signing the Convention, each country pledges to conserve not only the World Heritage sites situated on its territory, but also to protect its national heritage.

The States Parties are encouraged to integrate the protection of the cultural and natural heritage into regional planning programmes, set up staff and services at their sites, undertake scientific and technical conservation research and adopt measures which give this heritage a function in the day-to-day life of the community.

The Convention stipulates the obligation of States Parties to report regularly to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of their World Heritage properties. These reports are crucial to the work of the Committee as they enable it to assess the conditions of the sites, decide on specific programme needs and resolve recurrent problems.

It also encourages States Parties to strengthen the appreciation of the public for World Heritage properties and to enhance their protection through educational and information programmes.

Convention Governing Bodies

(a) UNESCO General Assembly

(b) World Heritage Committee

(c) Secretariat

(d)Advisory bodies

The governing bodies determine the procedures, protocols to be followed and the way the 1972 Convention on World Heritage should be implemented. These are the ‘keepers’ of the Convention and ensure that the spirit of the convention is maintained.

The GENERAL ASSEMBLY of States Parties to the World Heritage Convention

What does it do?



What is its functions?

The Committee is responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, defines the use of the World Heritage Fund and allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties. It has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Committee can also defer its decision and request further information on properties from the States Parties. It examines reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties and asks States Parties to take action when properties are not being properly managed. It also decides on the inscription or deletion of properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Secretariat to the World Heritage (World Heritage Centre)
Its Purpose
The World Heritage Committee is assisted by the Secretariat appointed by the Director General of UNESCO. The function of the Secretariat is currently assumed by the World Heritage Centre, established in 1992 specifically for this purpose. The Secretariat assists and collaborates with the States Parties and the Advisory Bodies. The Secretariat works in close cooperation with other sectors and field officers Of UNESCO. Refer to

Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Committee


The Advisory Bodies to the World Heritage Committee are >ICCROM (the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the restoration of Cultural Property). ICOMOS the International Council on Monuments and Sites) and IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The roles of the Advisory Bodies amongst others are to: advise on the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in the field of their expertise; monitor the state of conservation of World Heritage properties and review requests for International Assistance; and in the case of ICOMOS and IUCN evaluate properties nominated for inscriptions on the World Heritage List and present evaluation reports to the committee.



World Heritage Sites

There are a total of 962 world heritages sites around the world. There are 745 cultural nominated sites (man-made landscapes), 188 natural nominated sites (natural landscapes), and 29 mixed sites (cultural and natural combined). Europe seems to dominate in terms of the number of sites inscribed emanating from the region.

Australia has 19 sites listed as world heritage properties including the famous Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list

South Pacific World Heritage Sites:
Thus far only 6 sites in the region have been inscribed on the World Heritage List. These include Chief Roimata’s Domain (Vanuatu), East Renell (Solomon Islands), Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Kiribati), Bikini Atoll Nuclear Test Site (Marshall Islands), and Kuk Early Agricultural Site (Papua New Guinea) and now the Levuka Historical Port Town (Fiji). http://whc.unesco.org/en/list

Tentative List of Sites

Tentative List Process

A Tentative List is an inventory of those sites which a State Party intends to consider for nomination. States Parties are encouraged to submit their Tentative Lists, sites which they consider to be cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List. Read more http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists

About 169 state parties to the World Heritage Convention have enlisted 1561 sites in the Tentative List currently with UNESCO.

Nomination Process

Evaluation Mission


Preparation and Submission

Step 1: A state party must first create an inventory of its natural and cultural heritage known as Tentative List. A site in this list is eligible for submission as a nominated site for inscription in the World Heritage List.

Step 2: After identifying a site, the state party prepares a nomination file liaising with the World Heritage Centre on a continuous basis to ensure that necessary documentation and maps are included. Once a file is considered complete it is then submitted to an Advisory Body for evaluation.

Step 3: A nominated property is independently evaluated by two Advisory Bodies mandated by the World Heritage Convention: the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The results are tabulated with the World Heritage Committee.

Step 4: World Heritage Committee has the final say! It decides if the site will be inscribed, or defer its decision requesting further information from the state party.

Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention can submit nomination proposals for sites on their territory to be considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value.



Ratification of Convention

Ratification of 1972 World Heritage Convention

Fiji ratified the 1972 Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1990 through the collaborative efforts of the Departments of Environment and Town & Country Planning.

In ratifying the Convention, Fiji belongs to an international community of appreciation and concern for universally significant properties that embody a world of outstanding examples of cultural diversity and natural wealth. Similarly upon joining, Fiji join hands with other nations in cherishing world’s heritage, and sharing a commitment to preserving our legacy for future generations. Amongst others, Fiji has the opportunity to inscribe its national sites on the World Heritage List, access to the World Heritage Fund, and international cooperation and sustainable development for local communities.

Fiji Heritage Council

Fiji Heritage Council

The Fiji Heritage Council initially known as the “Fiji National World Heritage Committee was established in 2003 through a cabinet decision to spearhead work on the nomination of Levuka as a world heritage site. Later its function evolved to include implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention at the national level.

The Council is chaired by the Permanent Secretary responsible for Culture, Heritage and Arts and includes officials of government, statutory bodies and technical experts who have vested interested in the protection of Fiji’s national heritage.

The functions of the Council include:

  1. Policy direction for world heritage convention implementation in Fiji;
  2. Establish, keep and monitor the progress of places in the Fiji Register;
  3. Assist in the nominations of potential world heritage sites
  4. Facilitate the provision of technical advice on world heritage to the public.
  5. Education and awareness in communities;
  6. Provide periodical reports on the convention implementation and world heritage site activities facilitated at the national level to UNESCO;

The soon to be promulgated Fiji Heritage Decree will now legalize and dictate functions and membership of the Council.Download the Decree

Secretariat to the Council/Convention

[ Council & Convention]

The Department of National Heritage, Culture & Arts – Fiji World Heritage Unit serves as Secretariat to the Heritage Council and the implementation at the national level of the 1972 Convention for World Heritage. While the Council sets the policy direction, the Secretariat will serve to implement those decisions set by the Council at the various institutional level:

  • Government and Statutory Level
  • NGOs and Civil Societies
  • Educational and Academic Institutions
  • Communities
Fiji National Heritage Register

  • Register an Area, Building, Artifact

Fiji National Heritage Register

Fiji has various Registers for heritage and cultural activities. The Fiji National Heritage Register (FNHR) compilation is mandated under the National Trust of Fiji Amendment Act – 1998. Constituted in their function to keep and maintain a National Heritage Register, the National Trust of Fiji through the Minister responsible and by order in the National Gazette can declare:

  • An area of land or reef to be a National Heritage Area;
  • A building to be a National Heritage Building;
  • Any furniture, picture or chattel to be a National Heritage Artifact;

This is a National List and is an open register however, the inclusion of an Area, Building or Artifact must satisfy the general requirements, criteria, and guidelines set by the National Trust of Fiji in cooperation with the Fiji Museum.


The Fiji National Heritage Register will supply options for listing in the Fiji Register for Potential World Heritage Places.Learn more about the FNHR

Fiji Register for Potential World Heritage Places

  • Register Potential World Heritage Place.
Fiji Register for Potential World Heritage Places

A Potential World Heritage Place in Fiji is a place with possibilities of becoming a world heritage site. It can either be a CULTURAL or NATURAL site and has to meet various requirements set in the Fiji Heritage Decree and other criteria set by the Fiji Heritage Council. The following requirements need to be met to facilitate the inclusion of any site in the list.Click Here

This is also a nationally initiated register; however, inclusion is subject to the heritage place already included in the FNHR. Heritage Place in this context is composite of a Heritage Area, Heritage Building and Heritage Artifact as per the NTF Amended Act.

It is a requirement under the Heritage Decree that all sites in the Fiji-UNESCO Tentative List need to be registered first as Potential World Heritage Place in Fiji.

Fiji-UNESCO Tentative List

The Fiji-UNESCO Tentative List is a requirement under the 1972 Convention to facilitate the pre-nomination of places in Fiji that are prospective UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is a UNESCO or internationally generated listing.

In 1994, Fiji tendered its submission of tentative sites which inculcated:

1. Cultural Levuka Historical Port Town
2. Natural Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park
3. Natural Sovi Basin
4. Natural Yaduataba Crested Iguana Sanctuary

In the same year, the Fiji World Heritage Steering Committee selected and approved by cabinet that the Levuka Historical Port Town to be Fiji’s first nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Fiji Heritage Decree

The Fiji Heritage Decree is the legal instrument that provides protection for potential world heritage places in Fiji, and those that have been inscribed as a world heritage site. It looks at safeguarding of the nominated property and the immediate buffer zone that supports the area nominated.View the Decree

Fiji World Heritage Policy

The Fiji World Heritage Policy is a guiding document which aims to
“give the cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate protection of that heritage into the comprehensive planning programmes” of the Fiji Government National Development Plans.View Policy




Nomination of Levuka as a World Heritage Site


The initiative to pursue the listing of a national site for Fiji as a World Heritage Site is a new concept altogether. It requires the solicitation of ideas, opinions, and studies by international experts and professional so that a comprehensive nomination is submitted.

Levuka Town nevertheless became the first property in 1999 to be CONSIDERED for nomination as a World Heritage Site by Fiji.

The historic qualities of Levuka has been of interest to tourists since the 1970s and the possibility of a world heritage nominated has been mooted as early as the mid-1980s but it was not until the Department of National Heritage was established in 2000 that the Government of Fiji had a key role in initiatives for a World Heritage Nomination that had begun a decade earlier. The early initiatives had involved the Fiji Museum and the National Trust of Fiji which, while statutory organizations, did not have enough resources (human and physical) nor influence to convince government of the importance of this initiative. These institutions did however, have well established and strong international networks and connections which assisted them in their continued efforts to maintain and raise awareness of the heritage values of Levuka.

(a)Consultative Forums and Meetings

  1. Levuka Town’s People Heritage Forum
  2. Ovalau Heritage Forum
  3. Community Visitations
  4. Interagency Forum
Consultative Forums and Meetings for Ovalau and Levuka Town.

For Levuka consultation was fundamental to the development of its nomination. Two key FORUMS were developed as a result – the Levuka Town’s People Forum and the Ovalau Heritage Forum. These involved discussions held with the people of Levuka Town, and most importantly the consultations held with the 4 Turaganivanua of Ovalau
Tui Wailevu (District of Lovoni), Ratu mai Bureta (Bureta District), Roko Takala (District of Nasinu) and Tui Levuka (Levuka District) and their people. Their support and blessings has been instrumental in bringing everyone together. An interesting feature is that the indigenous communities and especially these 4 great Chiefs have taken the Levuka nomination at heart leading the initiative themselves.Report from Forum

Regular community visits were also facilitated by the Senior Project Officer of the Department who is based full-time in Levuka. The consultation involved raising awareness of the local, national and international heritage values of the town and the world heritage process in general. The aim was to enable communities to make informed decisions as to whether they considered the nomination to be a worthwhile initiative.[Community Visitation Materials]

Communities on Ovalau needed to be convinced that the inscription of Levuka on the world heritage list would have benefits to the local population and the nation in as far as social, cultural and economic returns are concerned.

The Department of National Heritage and its key stakeholders had had formed a consultative group to work on implementation of Levuka Heritage Projects. Chaired by the Commissioner Eastern, it includes the Department of Town & Country Planning, Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Provincial Development, Levuka Town Council, National Trust of Fiji, Fiji Museum and others.[Decision Updates]

(b)Nomination Submission

  • Nomination Dossier
  • Levuka Management Plan
  • Fiji World Heritage Decree
  • Maps of nominated property and buffer zones
Preparation and Submission of Nomination Dossier for Levuka Historical Port Town.

Development of the Levuka Nomination document – the document details the nominated property, the criteria used to argue the outstanding universal value of Levuka, the justification for Levuka’s uniqueness, comparative analysis of Levuka Port Town with other Port Town’s around the world to argue its distinctiveness, initiatives and projects pursued in regards to the conservation of Levuka’s built heritage. The Levuka nomination document was developed by the Department’s world heritage unit. This is a huge achievement for the Department as its production was done in-house.[View the Levuka Nomination Dossier]

Development Levuka Management Plan – looks at development projects, issues/problems that are rife in Levuka currently with possible solutions recommended. The status of conservation, heritage preservation tools and it focuses on the implementation of elements that would lead to the conservation of Levuka’s Built Heritage in the long run. The Plan was developed by Tourism Consultants Pty Ltd, a New Zealand based consultancy, with the Department’ World Heritage Unit. The Levuka Management was approved in 2011 and submitted with further revisions undertaken in 2012. This 2nd revision was submitted successfully.[View the Levuka Management Plan]

Development of a Levuka protection mechanism: the Fiji heritage Decree developed by an Australian Heritage Law Consultancy, and the Department’s Heritage Unit Legal Officer, the Decree was continuously revised to meet the standards, concerns and needs of the various institutions that have a part to play in the implementation of heritage values in Fiji. The decree does not specifically focus on Levuka but to all other potential world heritage sites in Fiji and those sites that have been inscribed on the World Heritage List.The draft Decree is currently being revised and will soon be tabled with cabinet.[View Decree]

Maps – the maps outline the two main boundaries- the nominated property and the buffer zone. In the case of Levuka, the boundaries were revised three times after numerous consultations with the Levuka Town’s people and indigenous communities in Ovalau. Refer to the following maps:

  • Nominated Property and Buffer Zone in relation to Ovalau Island;
  • Historical buildings/ Monumental Features within Nominated Property and Buffer Zone;
  • Natural Features within Nominated Property and Buffer Zone
  • Archaeological Features within Nominated Property and Buffer Zone.
(c)Icomos Assessment

  • ICOMOS Assessor Visit
  • ICOMOS Desktop Ass.
  • Final Report

ICOMOS Assessment of Levuka’s Justification for Outstanding Universal Value.

In September 2012, the Department of National Heritage together with its stakeholders prepared for the 1 week assessment of Levuka Town by the Independent ICOMOS Assessment assigned to evaluate on the OUV of Levuka, validate the authenticity of the structures and meet with relevant authorities to clarify on mechanisms in place to conserve, protect and promote Levuka.

A desktop analysis was also pursued by ICOMOS at their Office in Paris studying carefully the documents provided to justify the listing of Levuka.

A Final Report on the ICOMOS recommendation to the World Heritage Committee (WHC), and UNESCO was submitted to the state party Fiji for consideration before the WHC Meeting in Phnom Penh Cambodia on 22nd June 2013.

(d)Inscription Of Levuka

Levuka inscribed as a World Heritage Site.

At its 37th Meeting held in Phnom Penh Cambodia, the World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe the Levuka Historical Port Town on the World Heritage List in the 22nd of June 2013.

  1. See Intervention by His Excellency Mr. Peceli Vocea – Fiji Permanent Delegate and Representative to UNESCO
  2. See Media Reports
  3. Photo Gallery – Cambodia
(e)Levuka – The Way Forward Post Inscription of Levuka.

The Department of National Heritage and its stakeholders are currently focused at present on strategizing the way forward for Levuka after its inscription as a World Heritage Site. This is undertaken with all stakeholders who have a vested interest in Levuka.


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Ovalau Skills Development Workshops

In partnership with the Lomaiviti Provincial Office and the Fiji Arts Council the Department of National Heritage, Culture & Arts funded traditional skills revitalization and skills development workshops in the four districts (Tikina) of Ovalau and the Towns people community:

  1. Tikina o Lovoni
  2. Tikina o Bureta
  3. Tikina o Nasinu
  4. Tikina o Levuka
  5. Baba Community
  6. Levuka Towns People

The workshops were facilitated by local art and craft resources people emphasizing the use of local resources to create works of art and heritage craft that can be used as a means for economic livelihood of the people in Ovalau. This could be enhanced by the booming tourism on Ovalau with the inscription of Levuka as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Levuka Heritage Places Conservation

Certain monuments, heritage buildings and heritage sites qualify for assistance under the Department of National Heritage because of its significance, contribution to the OUV of Levuka and other qualifying mechanisms.

Some of the projects pursued by the Department include the:

  • Creation of Buffer for the Sacred Burial Ground of the Tui Levuka. The history of Levuka Town is centred on the village of Levuka and the Tui Levuka who was also known as the ‘tamanikaivavalagi’ (father of the Europeans).
  • Heritage Bins installed. An initiative of the Ports Authority of Fiji, it includes the installation of rubbish bins around the town to promote the Levuka Tidy Town Concept.
  • C. Town Street Lamps installed and water fountain maintained. Financial Assistance from the Bank of the South Pacific resulted in the procurement and installation of street lamps the refurbishment if the water fountains in Town.

Other infrastructural work in Levuka is carried out with the following partners as lead implementers for specific projects:

  • Refurbishment of Historical buildings, monuments and infrastructure. This is currently being carried by the Levuka Town Council with funding from Government;
  • B. Conservation Works and refurbishment of Heritage Schools in Levuka. Fiji’s Education System begun in Levuka and Levuka continues to boost some of the oldest school infrastructure – Marist Convent School, Levuka Public School, Delana Methodist School and St. John’s College. Through annual government assistance to the Ministry of Education, a grant is issued to these four schools to assist in the refurbishment of their infrastructure.
Levuka Heritage Clinic

  • Part 1
  • Part 2

Heritage Clinic Part 1 implemented.

In August 2012, a Heritage Clinic was organised to familiarise building owners and ratepayers in Levuka Town on the principles of conservation and preservation. Governmental experts from Town and Country Planning, Department of Environment, Public Works Department, Local Government, Department of Forestry, Fire Authority etc. spent a week in Levuka meeting and rectifying the grievances and concerns of ratepayers.

Heritage Clinic Part 2 Implemented.

A second clinic is earmarked after the inscription of Levuka to inculcate work on different areas in need of improvement in levuka ranging from tidy town concept, building refurbishment, fire safety measures set, interpretation and others. The implementation will take longer than initial one. Part 1 was simply to touch basis on the issues rife in Levuka.