Some things are so precious that the whole of mankind should look after them: cultural and natural sites of outstanding and universal value. UNESCO has the role of representing and protecting these intangible values – and it shares that role with all of us.
The guiding principle of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is that: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed". It says this in the preamble to its Constitution. As an autonomous organisation within the United Nations (UN) system, UNESCO works by supporting education, science, culture, communication and information in order to preserve peace, fight poverty and promote sustainable development and intercultural dialogue. UNESCO is a global forum for intellectual cooperation and for the sharing of information, experience and ideas.
What Nature has created over millions or thousands of years, and what humans have built up over the centuries, should be preserved. Protecting and preserving these treasures should be made the responsibility of all mankind – that is the central, revolutionary idea of World Heritage. It was the rescue of the temple of Abu Simbel that gave rise to the UNESCO Convention in 1972, in which a commitment was made to protect the world's cultural and natural heritage.
Over 1000 properties have now been added to the World Heritage list, including 13 in Switzerland. They are all of outstanding universal value, such as the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle and the Abbey of St. Gall.