1.         San Agustín Archaeological Park (Colombia) (C 744)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1995

Criteria  (iii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/744/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1995-1995)
Total amount approved: USD 10,400
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/744/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

Joint mission World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS November 2006.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) State of conservation of the fabric of monolithic sculpture;

b) Lack of management plan;

c) Lack of buffer zone.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/744/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

A joint World Heritage centre/ICOMOSmission was undertaken in November 2006, as per the request of the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, following a series of events related to the construction of a road through the archaeological site by the Yanacona indigenous community that inhabits an area at the limit of the San Agustin property. The mission was called for so that provisions could be made that would guarantee the conservation of the property’s outstanding universal value and its authenticity and integrity.

The sites that comprise the World Heritage property present decay phenomena resulting from the properties and nature of the physical fabric and its environmental conditions, though none of the effects evidenced are critical. The sites are well managed overall but presentation, interpretation and visitor services are somewhat limited. The main threats at the site are related to the lack of a buffer zone and management plan that would allow the authorities to control development of the surrounding areas that could impact the current integration of the sites with their setting.

As for the road built by the Yanacona community, there have been some impacts on the archaeological remains and these need to be attended to through additional systematic work and presentation of the area.

Participatory management planning is needed to develop a comprehensive long term plan to conserve and promote the values of the archaeological sites and to integrate tourism, social, economic and infrastructure development concerns in the area. The mission report identified several recommendations:

a) A systematic condition survey is needed to establish baseline information to monitor the state of conservation and promptly address decay phenomena as they occur;

b) The efficacy of sheltering and drainage systems also needs to be comprehensively assessed to address particular failures. However, if erosion is considered a significant decay factor, then additional wind breaking installations might be considered;

c) Interventions in the burial tombs need to be consistent across the three properties inscribed on the World Heritage List;

d) Interpretation at the sites can be enhanced;

e) Current proposals by the authorities to initiate a management planning process need to be implemented and completed on a priority basis. Although there are management arrangements in place, several issues need to be addressed holistically, within the framework of a participatory, value-driven methodological approach. This approach will entail identifying and involving key stakeholders during the decision-making process;

f) The existence of two municipalities that could have an impact on the inscribed properties will need to be taken into account. Actions prescribed, particularly in relation to regulating land use, will have to be integrated with urban, municipal and territorial development plans;

g) Different interest groups associated with the sites and its setting will need to be identified, so that their levels of responsibility and commitment to the site can be ascertained for the implementation of management strategies;

h) There is a need to establish precise limits and make maps available where use zones are clearly defined, as well as a buffer zone with regulations to limit what will be acceptable in terms of development of infrastructure. The properties are well integrated into their setting and provisions need to be taken to preserve the existing integrity of the landscape;

i) A more operative management structure is also needed;

j) A decision needs to be made in regards to existing infrastructure at the property;

k) The issues of living cultures are certainly critical in regards to World Heritage. However, in the specific case of San Agustin the particular conditions of the Yanacona community, the process that led to the current settlement, warrants further studies and research in order to ascertain the legitimacy of claims to the land;

l) The built road needs to be closed down and no vehicular traffic permitted. A walkway could be a sensible compromise to allow better access to the indigenous settlement and promote visitation to the area. Notwithstanding, there are already communication possibilities, which need to be improved, so that closing down the road would not mean leaving these communities isolated;

m) The Yanacona community has requested several permits in different occasions to develop activities in the areas of maximum protection that are inscribed in the World Heritage List. Although there are high expectations surrounding the use of the site, there have been no precise and explicit indications of what their priorities are. Ceremonial activities, production and distribution of traditional food, sales of handcrafts, construction of a maloca (ceremonial / ritual structure), recreational spaces for the community, etc., have been mentioned, but there is no precise decision of what the priorities are and what the potential implications on the land use and the setting of San Agustin could be.

Although there is a clear and present need to improve the social and cultural conditions of the area, any project in this respect needs to be reconciled to guarantee the conservation of the values that warranted the inscription of the site in the World Heritage List. To appropriately address these issues, they will need to be integrated in a meaningful way within the framework of a planning process.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7B.124

The World Heritage Committee,

1.       Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2.       Endorses the recommendations of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission of November 2006;

3.      Requests the State Party to implement the recommendations made by the reactive monitoring mission and particularly to:

a)      Develop an effective management plan within the framework of a participatory, value-driven approach

b)      Identify precise limits and buffer zones for the sites inscribed in the World Heritage List and requests the State Party to formally submit the proposed new boundaries to the buffer zone for approval by the World Heritage Committee. Such submission should include appropriate cartography as well as the legal framework;

c)      Define adequate uses for the existing infrastructure at the properties;

d)      Close down the built road and forbid vehicular traffic, developing an interpretative walkway to communicate the indigenous settlement and promote its visitation and invites the State Party to submit alternative options to improve the road system for local communities;

e)      Continue work and close collaboration with national and municipal authorities, as well as involved stakeholders, to control development at the site and anticipate potential impacts on the World Heritage Property.

4.       Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a report on the progress made on the above points for examination by the Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.