Rwanda will present five nominations for evaluation during the Extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from September 10 to 25. Among these nominations are four Genocide memorials – Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi, and Bisesero – as well as the lush Nyungwe Forest National Park, all aspiring to become United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. In this article, we delve into what it means to be a UNESCO heritage site and explore some of the most popular heritage sites around the globe. ALSO READ: UNESCO boss backs bid to turn Rwanda's Genocide memorials into world heritage sites A UNESCO heritage site is a location recognized and protected by UNESCO, a specialised agency of the United Nations established in 1945. UNESCO aims to promote international cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture, and communication. One of its vital roles is the preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. UNESCO heritage sites come in three varieties Cultural heritage sites which encompass historical buildings, cities, monuments, and archaeological sites. They highlight human achievements in architecture, urban planning, and artistic expression. Preservation efforts focus on conserving the cultural significance and historical context of these places. ALSO READ: UNESCO to decide fate of Rwanda's Genocide memorials in September Natural heritage sites, the protected ones are natural landscapes, ecosystems, and biodiversity. They can include national parks, forests, coral reefs, and geological formations. Conservation aims to maintain the ecological balance and protect the habitats and species that inhabit these areas. Mixed heritage sites which possess both cultural and natural significance, making them unique and multifaceted. They often combine historic architecture with pristine natural landscapes, offering a rich blend of cultural and environmental value. UNESCO's selection process Countries must submit nominations that demonstrate the exceptional value and integrity of the site through compiling a tentative list of potential sites within their borders. These sites undergo thorough evaluation to assess their eligibility and significance. After selecting a site from the tentative list, countries prepare a detailed nomination dossier. This document outlines the site's cultural or natural value, its history, and the measures in place for its protection and preservation. ALSO READ: UNESCO boss talks biodiversity, Kwita Izina, and making Rwanda’s Genocide memorials World Heritage sites Advisory bodies such as the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are consulted to review and evaluate nominations. These bodies provide expert recommendations to UNESCO's World Heritage Committee. During a session of the World Heritage Committee, composed of representatives from various countries, they review the nominations and recommendations. Sites meeting the stringent criteria are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Being designated as a UNESCO heritage site Countries have to protect and conserve the site's cultural or natural attributes. This includes maintaining its historical, architectural, or ecological integrity. Promotion is also necessary as these sites play a crucial role in promoting cultural diversity, sustainable tourism, and global understanding. They serve as educational tools and cultural ambassadors. ALSO READ: Why listing Genocide memorials under UNESCO heritage sites has delayed Then continuous research and documentation to understand the site's significance and preserving its history or ecological processes. Raising public awareness about the site's value and the need for its protection is vital. Local communities and visitors are encouraged to become stewards of these places. Becoming a UNESCO heritage site offers numerous benefits such as providing international recognition and prestige, drawing global attention to the site's cultural, historical, or natural significance, this increased visibility often leads to a surge in tourism, boosting the local economy and creating jobs. UNESCO designation also encourages conservation and preservation efforts, ensuring that these sites are protected for future generations. It also facilitates access to international funding and expertise for restoration and maintenance projects. Some of the popular UNESCO heritage sites Machu Picchu, Peru (Cultural heritage site): This ancient Incan citadel nestled in the Andes Mountains is renowned for its breathtaking architecture and archaeological significance. It offers a glimpse into the sophisticated engineering and culture of the Inca civilization. Great Barrier Reef, Australia (Natural heritage site): The world's largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, is a site of immense ecological importance. It houses a diverse array of marine life, including vibrant coral formations. Yellowstone National Park, USA (Mixed Heritage Site): As the first national park in the world, Yellowstone showcases both natural wonders and geothermal phenomena. It's home to geysers, hot springs, and diverse wildlife. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (Natural heritage site): a world-renowned wilderness area known for its vast, sweeping savannas and wildlife diversity. It is most famous for hosting the annual Great Migration of wildebeests and zebras, a natural spectacle where millions of animals traverse the plains in search of fresh grass and water. The park's expansive landscapes are home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros) and countless other species. The Great Wall of China, China (Cultural heritage site): an iconic symbol of Chinese history and engineering prowess, it’s a colossal series of fortifications built over centuries to protect China's northern borders. Stretching for over 13,000 miles, it is the longest wall in the world. The wall consists of various sections, some dating back as far as the 7th century BC, while others were added or reconstructed during different dynasties.