In the 6th Extraordinary Session of the World Heritage Committee held on 17 and 22 March 2003, ICOMOS was assigned the task of preparing a proposal aiming at the inclusion of cultural routes as a distinctive new concept among the different cultural heritage properties on the WH Convention Operational Guidelines which are under revision.

Consequently, a meeting of experts on Cultural Routes was held on 30 and 31 May in Madrid, with the generous support of the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

The meeting was attended by the President of ICOMOS and some representatives of the World Heritage Centre, as well as by the President and the Vice-presidents of the ICOMOS CIIC, accompanied by a small team of experts representing in an equitable manner the different cultural regions of the world, and specially selected on the basis of their past contribution to doctrinal aspects concerning the concept and operative aspects of cultural routes.

The resulting proposal, which is reproduced on these pages, is based on the doctrine developed by the CIIC along the past years, following the discussions of the first meeting on this subject (Madrid, Spain, November 1994).


WORLD HERITAGE                                        6 EXT.COM

                                                                                              WHC-03/6 EXT-COM/INF.5B                                                Paris, 3 December 2002






Paris, UNESCO Headquarters, Room II

17-22 March 2003


Item 5 of the Provisional Agenda: Revision of the Operational Guidelines

3rd Draft Annotated Revised Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention prepared by the March 2002 Drafting Group (formerly WHC-02/CONF.202/14B)



PROPOSED CHANGES are marked in red:

II.C. Criteria for the inclusion of properties on the World Heritage List

II.C.2. A property which is nominated for inclusion in the World Heritage List will be considered to be of outstanding universal value when the Committee finds that it meets one or more of the following criteria:


(ii)  Exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within (a) cultural area(s) of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

(iv)       Be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble, or landscape or cultural route which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;


II.C.12 For properties nominated under criteria (i) to (vi), the physical fabric of the property and/or its significant features should be in good condition, and the impact of deterioration processes controlled. A significant proportion of the elements necessary to convey the totality of the values conveyed by the property should be included. Relationships and dynamic functions present in cultural routes, cultural landscapes, historic towns or other living properties essential to their distinctive character should also be maintained.

* * *


ANNEX 4   PROPOSED AMENDMENTS are marked in red.



11. The extent of a cultural landscape for inclusion on the World Heritage List is relative to its functionality and intelligibility. In any case, the sample selected must be substantial enough to adequately represent the totality of the cultural landscape that it illustrates. The possibility of  designating long linear areas which represent culturally significant transport and communication networks should not be excluded. (We recommend this sentence to be deleted from the above paragraph relating to cultural landscapes, since it refers to a substantially new different concept, i.e. cultural routes).



20. The concept of "routes" or cultural itineraries was first discussed by the expert meeting on "Routes as a Part of our Cultural Heritage" (Madrid, Spain, November 1994) and finally defined by the second expert meeting  (Madrid, Spain, May 2003) on the basis of the doctrinal development carried out by the ICOMOS-CIIC International Scientific Committee on Cultural Routes (1997-2002)


21. The concept of heritage routes is shown to be a rich and fertile one, offering a privileged

framework in which mutual understanding, a plural approach to history and a culture of peace can all operate.

22. A heritage route is composed of tangible elements of which the cultural significance comes from exchanges and a multi-dimensional dialogue across countries or regions, and that illustrate the interaction of movement, along the route, in space and time.


21. A cultural route is a land, water, mixed or other type of route, which is physically determined and characterized by having its own specific and historic dynamics and functionality; showing interactive movements of people as well as multi-dimenssional, continous and reciprocal  exchanges of goods, ideas, knowledge and values within or between countries and regions over significant periods of time; and thereby generating a cross-fertilization of the cultures in space and time, which is reflected both in its tangible and intangible heritage.

22. Taken into account the cultural richness and variety of both the relationship and cultural properties which may exist in a cultural route (monuments, archaeological remains, historic towns, vernacular architecture, industrial and technological heritage, public works, cultural landscapes, transportation means and other samples of application of specific knowledge and technical skills), cultural routes are a suitable instrument for highlighting the fact that cultural reality is a multi-faceted evidence, which requires a multi-disciplinary approach. They also renew scientific hypotheses and allow technical, artistic and cultural knowledge to increase.

23. Being the historic result of peaceful encounters or disputes, cultural routes currently present a number of shared dimension which transcend their primitive function, offering an exceptional setting for a plural approach to history and a culture of peace and mutual understanding based on cooperation among nations.


Categories of Cultural Routes

24. Cultural routes can be classified in the following categories:

§        As per their present territorial scope: national or international;

§        According to their cultural scope: within a given cultural region or across different cultural areas sharing a process of reciprocal influences in the formation or the evolution of their cultural values.

§        As per their prime or still continuing purpose: social, economical, commercial, administrative, cultural and spiritual. These characteristics can also be shared in a multi-dimensional context.

§        As per their duration on time: Those which are no longer used but provide archaeological evidence of the past, and those which are still used and that by their very nature have developed and will continue to develop under the influences of socio-economic, administrative, spiritual and cultural exchanges.

§        As per their historical physical frame: land, aquatic, mixed or other type of physical route.

Inclusion of Heritage Cultural Routes on the World Heritage List.

23. 25. The following points should be considered when determining whether a heritage route is suitable for inclusion on the World Heritage List:

(a)     The requirement to hold exceptional universal worth should be recalled.

(b)     The concept of heritage cultural routes:

-          is based on the dynamics of movement and the idea of exchanges, with continuity in space and time;

-          refers to a whole, where the route has a worth over and above the sum of the elements making it up and through which it gains its cultural significance;

-          highlights exchange and dialogue between countries or between regions;

-          is multi-dimensional, with different aspects developing and adding to its prime purpose which may be religious, commercial, administrative or otherwise.

(c) A heritage route may be considered as a specific, dynamic type of cultural landscape, just as recent debates have led to their acceptance within the Operational Guidelines.

(c)The identification of a heritage cultural route is must be necessarily based on a collection of strengths and tangible elements, testimony to the significance of the route itself. The route will be established taking also into account its natural context, its  structural configuration such as line-like, belt-like, cross-like, and network-like, and its symbolic and spiritual dimension which shall contribute to identify and to explain its significance.

(d) The authenticity test and the measure of the conditions of integrity[1] is to must be applied, in each case (region, country, etc.), on the material aspects as well as on the historic sense and message of the cultural route and its defining spiritual elements. on the grounds of its significance making up the heritage route. and other elements The temporal relevance and current use of each section will be taken into account, as well as the legitimate aspirations for development of peoples affected. It will take into account the duration of the route, and perhaps how often it is used nowadays, as well as the legitimate wishes for development of peoples affected.

(e)     Even if in certain sections the material traces of a cultural route do not appear clearly preserved, the existence and value of the cultural route as a whole can be shown through the existing immaterial aspects.

(f)       The protection, conservation/preservation and promotion of a cultural route calls for both public awareness and participation of the inhabitants of the concerned areas, setting up management tools adapted to the protection against all kinds of risks, specially the negative repercussions of tourism, and the development of land use policies in concert with national, regional or international plans and aiming for a sustainable development.

(g)     For identification and evaluation purposes, the following characteristics may be considered:

§         Expressions of dynamic social, economical, commercial, administrative, cultural and spiritual processes as a consequence of exchanges between related areas;

§         Distinctive and shared characteristics of areas that are connected by historical and cultural links;

§         Expressions of mobility and relationships between peoples or ethnic groups of different cultures;

§         Special cultural features rooted in the traditional life of different communities;

§         Cultural properties related to cultural practices as ceremonies, festivals and religious celebrations representative of shared values for different communities within (a) specific cultural and historic area(s);

§         Cultural properties related to the sense and functionality of the route itself.


24. 26. The World Heritage Committee, in the framework of the Global Strategy for a balanced, representative and credible World Heritage List has requested a number of regional and thematic experts meetings on different types of properties. The results of these meetings may guide the States Parties in preparing nominations. The reports of the expert meetings presented to the World Heritage Committee and its Bureau can be accessed on the web at:  .

(We recommend to insert the information contained on the website of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Cultural Routes (, which includes the conclusions elaborated by its expert meetings and a report on its publications, studies and projects.)



25. 27.To fulfil its obligations concerning evaluations of nominations of cultural and natural properties, the Advisory Bodies have undertaken comparative and thematic studies, often with partner  organizations, in different subject areas in order to provide a context for their evaluations.

These reports, most of which are available on their respective web sites, include:

Earth's Geological History - A Contextual Framework for Assessment of World Heritage Fossil Site Nominations (September 1996)

International Canal Monuments List (1996)

World Heritage Bridges (1996)

A Global Overview of Forest Protected Areas on the World Heritage List (September 1997)

A Global Overview of Wetland and Marine Protected Areas on the World Heritage List (September 1997)

Human Use of World Heritage Natural Sites (September 1997)

Fossil Hominid Sites (1997)

The Urban Architectural Heritage of Latin America (1998)

Intercontinental Cultural Crossroads; Cultural Routes, Legislation and Cultural Tourism (1998)

Les Théâtres et les Amphithéâtres antiques (1999)

Railways as World Heritage Sites (1999)

The wine and the vine routes in the Mediterranean Cultural Heritage (1999);

Hispano-Portuguese Bastioned Fortifications Across Five Continents (1999)

Methodology, Definitions and operative Aspects of Cultural Itineraries(1st part). (1999)

Methodology, Definitions and operative Aspects of Cultural Itineraries” (2nd part) (1999)

A Global Overview of Protected Areas on the World Heritage List of Particular Importance for Biodiversity (November 2000)

Les villages ouvriers comme éléments du patrimoine de l'industrie (2001)

1. Intangible Heritage and Cultural Routes in a Universal Context; 2. Steps towards making a Pre inventory of Cultural Routes: a) Strategies and Teams; b) Projects and Contents (2001)

A Global Strategy for Geological World Heritage (February 2002)

Rock-Art Sites of Southern Africa (2002)

The conceptual and substantive independence of Cultural Routes in relation to Cultural Landscapes (2002)



Routes as part of Our Cultural Heritage. Report on the Meeting of Experts (Madrid, 24-25 November 1994) (WHC-94/CONF.003/INF.13) and the documents and conclusions elaborated by the meetings of experts of the ICOMOS-CIIC (1997-2002). See: Annex 4. III.25 27

[1] As specified in paragraphs II.C.7 and II.C.11 of the 3rd Draft Annotated Revised Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention.