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Perfect Inscriptions

Jonathanfr asked a while ago on the Forum whether we could have a Connection called “Perfect inscriptions”. 'Perfect' meaning: a recommendation of inscription by the advisory body, then inscribed at the first attempt. I was afraid sites like this would be too common to justify a connection, but as we have all the data anyway (thanks to crawling through all available official documentation in the past by some community members) I crafted a query for it to see what the outcome would be.

The process

I queried our database on the data displayed on the site pages under “Site History”. To determine perfect status, I excluded sites that have either been Referred, Deferred, Rejected or got an Advisory Body Overruled in their history before Inscription. I did so too with sites that got a Conditional inscription, sites where an Incomplete dossier has been submitted and sites where the State Party had requested it to not be Examined (often a move to avert a negative conclusion).

I ended up with 790 of the current WHS where the nomination process can be seen as Perfect. That’s 68% of them all! The list includes major sites such as Machu Picchu and the Serengeti, but also Srebarna and Lednice-Valtice.

Trends by year

When we compare the number of Perfect inscriptions as a percentage of the Total inscribed in a year, it looks like this:

The perfect percentage is slowly and steadily decreasing, though not as much as I would have expected. 2010 seems to have been the year when the trend really broke. And 2018 had no perfect inscriptions at all!

We must keep in mind that the transparency around the WHC has increased a lot over the years. The AB evaluations in the early years were either non-present or brief. Also, with the increasing focus on substantiation (such as a thorough comparative analysis), both on the side of the AB’s and the State Parties in their nomination files, there is more material for debate.

The trendline of the total number of nominations with “issues” (Dismissed (=Referred, Deferred, Not inscribed), AB overruled) per year is as follows:

Here we also see that from 2010 on, the number of AB overrides has surpassed the number of regular dismissals.

It is interesting to note that the number of dismissals stays at a fairly similar level over the years. So could we conclude that the AB overrides are statistically justifiable corrections? Have the AB’s become more critical of what is offered to them and does the WHC revise that? Or can the WHC not accept that the average intrinsic quality of the potential sites goes down when the list expands?

Country differences

When we compare the WHS on this topic by country, Egypt stands out with a 100% perfect score among its 7 inscribed WHS. No other country with 5 or more sites inscribed does have such a good track record. Greece does well too (94%), as do The Netherlands (92%) and Bulgaria (90%).

Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria score particularly bad, with only 17% perfect each.

The full list by country can be found here, and the statistics of the major countries look like this:


Finally, does it matter whether an evaluation has been written by ICOMOS or IUCN? Not so much: out of the total of 897 cultural inscriptions, ICOMOS was overruled by the WHC 106 times. 29 out of 257 mixed and natural inscriptions got lucky. That’s 12% versus 11%.

Els - 31 July 2022

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Jonathanfr 5 August 2022

Very good work, thanks!

Els Slots 31 July 2022

In the total list, I forgot to exclude the ones having "Requested by State Party to not be examined". Fixed that now - the total perfect ones is down from 812 to 790. Thanks winterkjm for reporting!

Els Slots 31 July 2022

On request, I've also added a link to the full list of countries and their perfect % (you'll find it above the table).