The aim of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention is to protect valuable cultural and natural sites around the world. Verla was named a World Heritage site due to its status as a unique and culturally and historically significant example of an industrial settlement from the turn of the 20th century.
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention
UNESCO, founded in 1945, is an educational, scientific and cultural organisation and a specialised agency of the United Nations. Its purpose is to promote peace, reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable development and intercultural dialogue by promoting cooperation between nations through the use of science, education and culture.
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention is one of the most well-known international conventions. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted in 1972. Finland ratified the convention in 1987. The purpose of the convention is to safeguard the preservation of valuable cultural and environmental heritage worldwide and protect it from destruction and decay. Around the world, 191 nations have committed to honouring the convention. As of July 2017, there are World Heritage sites in 167 different countries.
The prime catalyst for the World Heritage Convention was a major international effort in 1959–1968 to rescue the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt, which were threatened by the rising waters of the Nile due to the construction of a dam. The rescue operation awakened a strong international urge to protect the world’s irreplaceable cultural heritage.
The World Heritage Convention is based on a concern for safeguarding the world’s endangered cultural and environmental heritage for future generations. Its mission is to demonstrate the value of the world’s most significant cultural heritage sites and to preserve them through international cooperation. World Heritage is a matter of the common cultural and environmental heritage of the entire human race.
Criteria for Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites
In order to be included in the World Heritage List, a cultural heritage site must be regarded as a masterpiece of human creativity or bear an exceptional testimony as to an existing or already extinct culture. For example, the site can be a building type that represents a significant historical era or illustrates the traditional settlements of a certain culture. It can also be associated with events, living traditions, ideologies, religions, beliefs or artistic and written works.
An environmental heritage site, on the other hand, could reveal something about an important developmental phase in the history of the Earth itself or be an example of ongoing ecological or biological change. This could be an exceptionally scenic landscape or the habitat of an endangered species.
Verla’s industrial setting as part of World Heritage
Verla was added to the World Heritage List in 1996 on the basis of criterion (iv): the Verla Groundwood and Board Mill and its associated habitation are an outstanding and remarkably well-preserved example of the small-scale rural industrial settlement associated with pulp and board production that flourished in northern Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, of which only a handful survive to the present day.
World Heritage Sites in Finland
In addition to Verla, there are six other World Heritage sites in Finland. The Kvarken Archipelago is Finland’s only natural heritage site; the other sites are categorised as cultural heritage sites.