On Tuesday, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced the 2022 World Monuments Watch, a selection of 25 heritage sites “of extraordinary cultural significance” whose preservation has been deemed both “urgent and vital to local communities” across 24 countries, according to a WMF press release. The Watch, released biannually, includes sites around the world that are selected by the International Council on Monuments and Sites alongside a panel of heritage experts. The list is intended to bring global awareness to preservation efforts and spotlight the impact of socio-political pressures on heritage sites; categorized into four broad categories—climate change, underrepresented heritage, imbalanced tourism, and crisis recovery—the 2022 sites span 12,000 years of history.
“This year’s Watch demonstrates that heritage preservation can offer innovative solutions to contemporary global challenges,” said World Monuments Fund president and CEO Bénédicte de Montlaur in a statement.
In recent years, the organization has shifted its focus from individual buildings to a broader definition of historic sites. Reflecting a larger trend in preservation, the WMF has also endeavored to make its selection more global and inclusive. In the climate change category, coastal locations like the Maldives’s Koagannu Mosques and Cemetery face sea level rise, while Nepal’s Hitis (Water Fountains) of the Kathmandu Valley and Peru’s Yanacancha-Huaquis Cultural Landscape must contend with the issue of water scarcity. Often at risk for exploitation, destruction, and resource extraction, underrepresented ancestral territories like Australia’s Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Training Home and the U.S.’s Garcia Pasture—the territory of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas—are home to those advocating for protection through local stewardship.
An imbalance of tourism reverberates through sites like Mexico’s archaeological park Teotihuacán, where local residents don’t see the economic benefits wrought from visibility and tourism; whereas China’s Fortified Manors of Yongtai and Egypt’s Abydos represent under-visited locations ripe for sustainable tourism. Crisis-impacted sites in need of community-led recovery include Lebanon’s Heritage Buildings of Beirut decimated in the 2020 explosion and Benghazi’s Historic Center in Libya.
“We urge the world to stand with communities and save these places of extraordinary cultural significance,” said de Montlaur. “Heritage sites are an incredible resource for addressing larger issues facing society as well as local needs of recognition, access, participation, and economic opportunity.”
Since creating the Watch in 1996, the WMF has put more than $110 million toward preserving 300 watch sites. In addition to carrying out emergency conservation efforts during crises, the WMF funds projects, provides grants, carries out scientific research, and develops preservation training programs with local communities to arrange for long-term stewardship of identified heritage sites.