A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place (such as a Forest, Mountain, Lake, Desert, Monument, Building, complex, or City) that is listed by the UNESCOas of special cultural or physical significance. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Comities, composed of 21 State Parties which are elected by their General Assembly.
The program catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The programme was founded with the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on November 16, 1972. Since then, 186 state parties have ratified the convention. As of 2010, 911 sites are listed: 704 cultural, 180 natural, and 27 mixed properties, in 151 States Parties. Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites to date with 45 sites inscribed on the list. UNESCO references each World Heritage Site with an identification number; but new inscriptions often include previous sites now listed as part of larger descriptions. As a result, the identification numbers exceed 1200 even though there are fewer on the list.
While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.