Personal Finance

World heritage sites and monuments protection

Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Notre-Dame de Paris, a church built in the medieval times burnt down last week, generating a lot of global reaction. A travel to Paris was not complete without a visit to the landmark.

Other than the religious significance of Notre Dame, this building holds a lot of architectural and cultural significance. It is one of the listed Unesco world heritage sites. Therefore, the fire at Notre Dame was an issue of global concern.

The building lost some of its prized historical artefacts in the fire. What many people perhaps do not know is that there is a legal regulation around world heritage sites such as Notre Dame.

In 1991, Notre Dame was listed as a world heritage site mostly for its gothic art.

In Kenya, world heritage sites include Lake Turkana National Park, Fort Jesus, and the Great Lakes System. These sites are legally protected under international laws.


In 1972, the World Heritage Convention was made and its provisions are applicable in handling of the Notre Dame devastation. The Convention places a lot of responsibilities on the member States regarding management and preservation of the sites.

Member States are obligated to identify possible sites within their jurisdictions that could be listed as world heritage sites. Once this is done, the States protect them on behalf of their nationals and the citizens of the world.

Basically, a world heritage site is one in which the whole world has an interest. Therefore, France has a responsibility to protect Notre Dame on behalf of the French and the world.

The Unesco convention has many technical provisions on preserving a world heritage site. The State in question ought to employ a special cadre of staff to manage the site and submit regular reports to the World Heritage Committee on its protection and preservation.

Therefore, management of a world heritage site is a structured and formal affair.

The International Council of Monuments and Sites is the body that has the mandate on world heritage sites.

The Unesco has actively lobbied for the protection of world heritage sites.

The law on world heritage sites is so serious that it is deemed a crime against humanity to intentionally destroy the landmarks.

Supposing there was foul play in the Notre Dame De Paris fire, or intentional destruction then the “arsonist”, if at all, would be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This happened when a Malian man intentionally destroyed the famous Timbuktu shrines.

The Timbuktu shrines were found in Mali and formed part of national and world heritage sites.

They were recognised that way. The man in question was tried at the ICC.

Despite the man’s remorse, his actions earned him a nine-year prison sentence from the ICC, which largely took the view that cultural destruction was as serious as a war crime.

The sentence was meant to be a deterrence perhaps to encourage preservation of world heritage sites.