1.         Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower (Azerbaijan) (C 958)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2000

Criteria  (iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger   2003-2009

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/958/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1998-1998)
Total amount approved: USD 15,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/958/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 30,000 (American Funds Special Account, 2005/06); USD 22,000 (Netherlands Funds-in-Trust, 2005/06) 

Previous monitoring missions

February 2002: UNESCO mission; October 2002: UNESCO/ICOMOS mission; January 2003 and April 2003: UNESCO missions; November 2003: ICCROM mission; October 2004: UNESCO mission to participate in the Round Table; September 2005: UNESCO mission (with the University of Minnesota, USA); March 2007 and January 2009: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS missions. 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Changing urban fabric due to the demolition of buildings and uncontrolled construction within the Walled City;

b) Overall lack of any management system and in particular insufficient coordination between the national and municipal authorities;

c) Absence of a comprehensive management plan that addresses conservation problems, urban development control and tourism activities. 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/958/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

The State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 1 February 2012 as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010). A reactive monitoring mission was carried out from 6 to 10 February 2012.  The mission report is available at the following Web address:http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents/.

a) Conservation Master Plan and Integrated Area Management Plan

The State Party indicates that the Conservation Master Plan (CMP) was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in November 2010. A consulting firm was contracted to integrate the CMP with the Integrated Area Management Plan (IAMAP) into a single document called “Development Strategy of Icherisheher” that includes high-level strategies and an action plan for implementation. The report notes that the CMP was approved as a legal act in 2010, which makes its implementation mandatory for all state authorities, including for the urban planning system. Further, a Special Legal Regime Regulation of the Buffer Zone of Icherisheher was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in September 2011. Given that any works at the buffer zone will require the consent of Administration of the State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” (SHAHAR) and the Executive Power of Baku, it is expected that the area will enjoy greater control and protection.

The mission noted that stronger measures, including planning and enforcement of regulations, are needed to ensure that no further impacts arise from high-rise and big volume constructions around and close to the buffer zone of the inscribed property. Planning and formulation of integrated urban policies need to take into account the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. In addition, closer cooperation and interaction between SHAHAR and the Greater Baku Planning Authority is required. It recommended implementing the four actions for interface of planning and management with the Greater Baku Plan. The mission reported that illegal new constructions and destruction of the historic urban fabric within the inscribed property and its buffer zone have been halted, which reflects an improvement in the overall management system. The mission considers that illegal constructions already built will need proper legal, consultative and technical actions to neutralise their impacts. It also considers that Heritage Impact Assessment processes need to be systematically implemented for the evaluation of all projects presented for development. It further notes that street view surveys are needed to ensure the preservation of the visual connections between the Walled City and the Caspian Sea and also to develop adequate landscaping policies. It also suggested designating of the inner historic city of the 19th - early 20th century, adjacent to the Walled City, as an urban conservation area and developing adequate regulatory measures to sustain its environmental and architectural qualities.

b) Guidelines for rehabilitation and restoration of historic buildings

The State Party reports that SHAHAR has adopted the “Rules on enjoyment and protection of historical buildings” and “Agreement on the protection of historical documents”. Additionally, guidelines for rules and procedures on restoration and rehabilitation of historic buildings, design of new constructions, street furniture and communications were prepared, taking into account the recommendations from IAMAP and best practices from other historic towns. These were formulated and approved in 2011 and are being utilised for the authorization of project proposals for repair works, for use of historical monuments/ houses by owners and for the organisation of supervision activities in this field. 

The mission noted that on-going conservation and restoration processes are of better quality than previous attempts and experiences. It underscored the need to strengthen research and documentation of monuments and to apply the Conservation Master Plan through proper practice. It also reported there is a need to develop a guidance manual for regular economic and architectural maintenance of historic buildings and to consider further discussions of Contemporary Architecture in Historic Environments.

c) Actions implemented at the property

The State Party report mentions additional actions in place since 2010. These include the development of a programme proposal on restoration, preservation of immovable historical and cultural monuments, improvements and developments of activities of historical and cultural reserves during 2012-2020. No further information is provided on the approval of this project or the allocation of funding for its implementation. A Commission of Emergency Situations has been established to address risk preparedness, and a Scientific/Technical Council and a Council of Elders have also been established to respectively study and implement scientific-technical achievements and to engage inhabitants in decision-making processes for the property.

The State Party also reported on restoration, conservation and renovation works at Icherisheher which included repairs on state housing buildings which are historical monuments. For this project, a system was put in place to facilitate consultation between residents and authorities and to improve transparency and accountability. Processes for improving infrastructure for services have continued including street lighting, repaving, and replacement of gas pipelines and sewage systems. Restoration works were implemented at the facades of 40 buildings, at the Archaeological Garden, the Complex of Small Caravanserai, at the Mohammad Mosque and some parts of the Fortress walls among others. A series of outreach and public awareness activities were also implemented, including the improvement of museum activities. A geographic information system (GIS) was also created and launched by SHAHAR to facilitate information about the property and to support other services, such as the Tourism Information system.

The mission noted that although several actions are being implemented, the provisions made in IAMAP, particularly those pertaining to research and conservation of authentic urban elements, need to be prioritised, as well as the rehabilitation action plan for the urban residential quarters as prescribed by the CMP. It noted that threats to the built fabric are derived from air pollution, salts and wind erosion. It also recommended strengthening the living city approach policy to maintain inhabitants within the Walled City, to sustain one of the key attributes of the property. This will require financial and administrative support to prevent detrimental socio-economic transformations. They also encouraged expanding representation on the Council of Elders to include NGO’s and other representatives from organised bodies working in the Walled City. 

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the progress made in improving of the management system and the halting of illegal constructions and demolitions. They note the integration of the both planning tools for the property (CMP and IAMAP) and underscore the importance of implementing the derived document, ensuring that regulations and provisions from both are cross-referenced. They also highlight the importance of developing the necessary inputs to include in the Greater Baku proposal and to ensure the adequate recommendations are presented to the State Committee on Urban Planning and Architecture (SCUPA) for consideration, as well as the continuous updating of information during the process.

Notwithstanding, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the Committee express its concern at the degradation of the setting of the property due to the construction of the high-rise buildings, such as the “Flame-Towers” which have generated a significant visual impact on the attributes that sustain its Outstanding Universal Value. They note that no adequate information on these development projects and the status of their approval was provided by the State Party, in accordance to Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

They also wish to highlight to the Committee that further developments, including those already approved by the City Administration, need to be halted until new legal provisions and integrated urban policies have been developed and adopted to address urban pressure, to effectively impose restrictions on the height of buildings and to equip the national authorities with the necessary tools to review major development projects.

They further recommend that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to introduce a moratorium on the construction of tall buildings until a survey has been conducted of the overall urban landscape surrounding the property. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies further recommend that a Technical Review Committee be established by the State Party, including representatives of all stakeholders, to review all major development proposals and proposed planning controls and policies that could adversely impact on the Outstanding Universal Value.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.71

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,

2.   Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.77, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3.   Takes note of the progress made by the State Party in addressing concerns raised in prior sessions of World Heritage Committee and urges it to secure the necessary resources for the sustained operation of the management system currently in place and for the implementation of prescribed priority conservation and rehabilitation actions;

4.   Expresses its serious concern about the degradation of the setting of the property and the visual impact generated by high-rise buildings and also urges the State Party to introduce a moratorium on further construction of tall buildings until legal provisions, integrated urban policies and a survey of the urban landscape of the property have been developed and adopted to ensure the protection of the property’s surroundings;

5.   Requests the State Party to submit technical specifications of all on-going and planned new construction projects, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review prior to granting approval for implementation;

6.   Recommends that the State Party establish a Technical Review Committee, including representatives from all stakeholders, to review all major development proposals that could adversely impact on the Outstanding Universal Value, and to propose planning controls and policies;

7.   Notes the results of the February 2012 reactive monitoring mission and encourages the State Party to implement its recommendations, with particular emphasis on:

a)  Ensuring closer cooperation between State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” (SHAHAR) and the Greater Baku Planning and collaboration in the formulation of integrated urban policies,

b)  Implementation of Heritage Impact Assessments prior to the approval of projects within the property and its buffer zone,

c)  Development of a guidance manual for maintenance of historic buildings,

d)  Prioritisation of the implementation of research and conservation of urban elements set out in the Integrated Area Management Plan (IAMAP) and the rehabilitation action plan for urban residential quarters prescribed in the Conservation Master Plan (CMP),

e)  Strengthening the implementation of the living city approach policy by providing financial and administrative support to maintain inhabitants within the Walled City,

f)   Expanding representation on the Council of Elders to ensure larger participation and transparency in decision-making processes;

8.   Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the steps taken to implement the recommendations set out above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.