The UNESCO World Heritage Committee are representatives from 21 States Parties elected by their General Assembly. These representatives, or Committee Members, are allowed to serve a term of six years. However most States Parties voluntarily sit on the Committee for only four years, in order to let other States Parties have an opportunity to be elected to the Committee. For example, all the members elected during the 15th General Assembly in 2005 have voluntarily decided to serve for just four years.
Among the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee, seven members are annually elected to serve in the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee. The seven comprises a Chairperson, five Vice-Chairpersons, and one Rapporteur. The duty of the Bureau is to coordinate the scheduling of work, fixing dates of the sessions and order of business.
At the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain, Mr João Luiz Silva Ferreira, representative from Brazil, was elected as Chairperson. Ms Britta Rudolff of Bahrain was elected as Rapporteur, and representatives from Australia, Egypt and Sweden acted as Vice-Chairpersons.
As of the 15th General Assembly of 2005, the 21 States Parties of the World Heritage Committee comprises Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Iraq, Jordan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
There is no hard-and-fast rule determining which country or region the Committee members should be elected from, but as far as possible, the Committee try to achieve an equitable representation from the different regions and cultures of the world. This is also to comply with Article 8 (2) of the World Heritage Convention.
There is however a special provision to elect from States Parties with no properties inscribed on the World Heritage List. The World Heritage Committee decides during its Ordinary Session, the number of seats to be reserved for these States Parties.