Robben Island was declared as a World Heritage Site (WHS) in 1999 under criteria (iii) and (vi) of the ‘World Heritage Convention’s Operational Guidelines’.
- Criterion (iii) requires that a site bears unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or has disappeared.
- Criterion (vi) requires that sites should be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
The justification for inscription, as set out in the ‘Nomination Dossier’, captured the significance of the Island based on its long and layered history that has resulted in both the tangible (built fabric) as well as the rich intangible heritage (memories). It reads:
The buildings of Robben Island bear eloquent testimony to its sombre history... Robben Island and its prison buildings symbolise the triumph of the human spirit of freedom and of democracy over oppression.
‘Nomination Dossier’ 1999