The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted at the General Conference of the UN on November 16, 1972 and came into effect on December 17, 1975.
Involvement of international policy instruments in the determination, protection and all-round support of unique natural and cultural sites is the main objective of the Convention. Today it is the most representative convention on environmental protection - in 2012 the total number of the States Parties has reached 190.
In order to enhance the efficiency of the Convention the World Heritage Committee and the World Heritage Fund were established in 1976. Two years later the first cultural and natural sites were inscribed into the World Heritage List.
The Galapagos Islands, Yellowstone (USA), Nahanni (Canada) and Simen (Ethiopia) National Parks were among the first natural areas granted the status of "World Heritage Site". Over the past years the List became more representative both in terms of the regions of the world covered and the number of sites inscribed. By the middle of 2013 193 natural, 759 cultural and 29 mixed sites in 160 countries of the world were inscribed on the List. Such world famous sites as the Great Barrier Reef, the Hawaiian Islands, Grand Canyon and Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Baikal are under the protection of the Convention. Natural Heritage sites occupy 13% of the total square of all specially protected areas in the world.