Natural and cultural properties considered to be of 'outstanding universal value' and which meet the strict criteria of the World Heritage Convention may be entered on the list compiled by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO.
This Convention was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Australia was one of the first countries to ratify this convention in 1974.
Countries which are signatories to the Convention are required to identify, protect, conserve, present and transmit to future generations natural and cultural properties entered in the World Heritage List.
The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is the largest World Heritage Area in the world and one of just a few that meet all four natural World Heritage criteria:
- An example of a major stage in the earth's evolutionary history
- An outstanding example of geological processes, biological evolution and people's interaction with their natural environment
- A place with unique, rare and superlative natural phenomena
- A place that provides habitats for rare and endangered species of plants and animals.
The Great Barrier Reef was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981. Although originally seen as a prize or badge of honour, World Heritage Status is a condition that will help ensure future generations can appreciate its unique features. Perhaps no other initiative has been as far-reaching in its vision, innovative in its approach, or more encompassing in its scope, than the 25-year strategic plan for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
This Strategic Plan gives everyone who has a stake in the Reef's long-term future a say and a role in how the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is to be managed over the next 25 years. This approach will ensure the Reef remains in a healthy state and can be enjoyed by future generations.