VII.46 Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela (Ethiopia)
At the request of the Chairperson, the consultant who visited the site in April-May 1997, provided a synthetic report on the situation at this site, which is the object of an international safeguarding campaign. Recalling the principal characteristics of the Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela which should be considered with an overall approach, he emphasized the importance given to their preservation and informed the Committee that the European Commission is prepared to release important funds for the construction of temporary shelters to protect the five churches from degradation due to heavy rains. In this respect, he underlined the need to find temporary solutions which safeguard the integrity of this monolithic ensemble in the framework of an integrated overall conservation plan. Furthermore, as this site is the object of increased tourism development, a long-term management plan will also have to be foreseen. The Director of the Division of Cultural Heritage expressed UNESCO's appreciation for the contributions from the European Commission which shall initiate hydro-geological, geophysical, geological and structural studies, and from Finland (FINIDA) for Lalibela. He also recalled the interest of the Observer of Germany, former Chairperson of the Committee and former Ambassador to Ethiopia, in this site. Mr Winkelmann confirmed the continuing interest of the Committee with regard to the conservation and enhancement of the whole site which deserves also full attention from both the local population and international opinion. He emphasized the temporary character of the shelters which shall be constructed, and supported the conservation plan which would be in accordance with traditional techniques.
1) thanked the Ethiopian authorities for having requested the European Union to inform the World Heritage Centre of the International Competition foreseen for the erection of five shelters in Lalibela;
2) noted the results of the meeting held on 30 September 1997 at UNESCO between the European Union, the World Heritage Centre and UNESCO's Division of Cultural Heritage;
3) recommended that the Competition File be reviewed to integrate the points of view of the World Heritage Centre consultant and ICOMOS with a view to preserving the World Heritage value of the site;
4) endorsed the conservation programme prepared by the UNESCO-WHC consultant;
5) underlined the importance of an integrated preservation and long-term management plan on a site endangered by new environmental contingencies and requested the World Heritage Centre to organise a mission to Lalibela before the end of January 1998, to review the situation with the Ethiopian authorities and the European Union, in order to: (a) ensure a long-term protection of the monuments within the context of the ecosystem; (b) integrate the problems of the growth of Lalibela and, (c) draw up a plan of action of the approved conservation programme which should be requested by the Ethiopian authorities under the European Union 'Programme to support initiatives in the conservation field (PSIC).