In February 2007, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report stating the Government’s commitment and priority attention to the rehabilitation project of the San Sebastian Fortress and of the UNESCO-African Development Bank (AfDB) project for the integrative Master Plan. The report informs the Committee on the following steps that have been undertaken to improve the property’s management:
a) a cabinet for the conservation and restoration of the Island of Mozambique (GACIM) was created for the management of the island and a Director was appointed;
b) a coordination seminar financed by the Government of Portugal was organised in February 2007 with the view to discuss priorities for conservation, management and planning mechanisms;
c) the terms of reference for the Island’s Master plan to be funded through the UNESCO-AfDB project has been elaborated;
d) a steering committee co-chaired by UNESCO Maputo and the Ministry of Education and Culture has been created with the view to coordinate activities related to the rehabilitation of the San Sebastian Fortress;
An ICOMOS monitoring mission requested by the Committee at its 30th Session (Vilnius, 2006) was undertaken in order to evaluate the state of conservation of the property and make recommendations to the World Heritage Committee particularly on the progress made in the rehabilitation of the San Sebastian Fortress, the development of the UNESCO-AfDB Programme, and the finalization of the conservation and management plan.
The report clearly states that despite the State Party’s efforts, urgent work is needed to address the severe threats to the property. These were identified by the mission as follows:
a) Lack of infrastructural services:
There is not only lack of sewage but also lack of adequate roads and the inability to control flooding in the low lying Macuti Town.
b) Abandonment of buildings and structures:
Some State-owned buildings are said to be leased to people who either leave them to deteriorate or lock them, thus reducing the number of habitable buildings on the site; there appears to be no commitment to maintain these buildings and many are in imminent danger of collapse. The retaining wall to the Macuti town is cracked, funnelling storm water towards the impoverished dwellings. The authenticity of the property is seriously threatened.
c) Lack of resources for maintenance by residents:
Many residents who only moved to the Island after the Civil War and others who are caretakers for rich property owners have neither the resources nor the commitment to maintain the buildings.
d) Lack of progress in restoring San Sebastian Fortress:
Since the restoration agreement was signed jointly by UNESCO and the Government of Mozambique in 2003, progress has been very slow in launching the restoration works of the Fortress.
e) Lack of a Management and conservation plan:
Following the 2000 reactive monitoring mission, a Management Plan was proposed and its preparation eventually launched in 2003. It has not yet been finalised. Nor is there any functional interim plan in place.
ICOMOS identified the following structural weaknesses that contribute to these threats:
(i) Lack of capacity within the Local Authority managing the island;
(ii) Local perception that UNESCO ‘owns’ the site and is responsible for initiating action;
(iii) Lack of awareness that Macuti Town as well as the Stone Town are part of the inscribed site;
(iv) Uncoordinated national and local site conservation framework;
(v) No short term strategy in place to deal with conservation and other threats.
However, the report confirmed that the following actions have been taken to urgently address the threats:
(i) The process of appointing the site manager for the completion of the management plan is already in its advanced stages;
(ii) The Cabinet for Restoration and Conservation of the Island (GACIM) has been established, its head appointed and office space provided in the building occupied by the UNESCO office on the Island. GACIM is a restructuring of the Technical Cabinet for the Rehabilitation of the Island of Mozambique which was set up in 1994;
(iii) Basic work is continuing in planning the restoration of the San Sebastian Fortress by the architectural consultancy firm in Maputo
The mission concluded that there needs to be much more commitment to addressing urgent threats with immediate actions. Repairs to buildings, sites and structures cannot wait for the management or any other master plan, as by the time the plans are ready, little may remain of the current collapsing World Heritage property. There needs to be an emergency strategy with community involvement to consolidate dilapidated buildings and structures, fill in ponds, uproot trees on structures, clear debris, etc. while the management plan is being finalised and a longer term administrative structure is put in place.
The management and conservation plan must address not only the threats but opportunities for economic and social development in order to harness the significant cultural resources that the site presents for the benefit of local communities.
Significant progress has been made however since July 2006 with regards to the rehabilitation project of the San Sebastian Fortress by the State Party with the technical support from UNESCO Maputo and the World Heritage Centre. Respective authorization received from the three donor partners, Japan, Portugal and UCCLA to review and extend the project budget and the implementation deadlines have enabled the State Party and UNESCO to plan and to start the implementation phase of the project successfully. In line with prioritizing the prevention of the Fortress from further deterioration and urgent commencement of the restoration works, the project’s Chief Technical Advisor has been recruited and has taken up his duties in February 2007 in the island, an internationally selected architectural consultant firm is preparing the technical documents for the restoration works since March 2007, and the project Steering Committee held its inaugural meeting in May 2007.
The World Heritage Centre has received a report from the National Directorate of Culture in Mozambique dated 5 February 2007 entitled “Partnership for sustainable Development of the Island of Mozambique – Terms of Reference for the Master Plan”. The principal objective of the proposed Partnership is to achieve the sustainable development of the Island and coastal area associated with it, taking the World Heritage rehabilitation as a catalyst for the development of businesses of the local communities. The integrated approach of this Partnership will consist of three phases: Conservation of the Valuable Historical heritage; Rehabilitation and Expansion of the Infrastructures; and Economic Development and Creation of Employment Opportunities, and is in keeping with the development plan proposed by the African Development Bank. The World Heritage Centre has further received a Strategic Plan for the Municipality of the Island of Mozambique for 2005 -2010 prepared with the assistance of the Organization of World Heritage cities – a network project between the Island, the city of Bergen in Norway and the Islands of Zanzibar in Tanzania and Lamu in Kenya. The main objective of this Plan is to establish viable and operational guidelines for the good municipality management of the Island.