The present report on the state of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls was prepared on the basis of information collected by the Centre. The scope of this report is an assessment of the state of conservation of the World Heritage property of the Old City of Jerusalem in line with the guidelines for properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This issue is also examined by the Executive Board and the General Conference of UNESCO on the basis of the General Conference Resolution 32 C/39, which referred to “the relevant United Nations resolutions and decisions, in particular the relevant Security Council resolutions on the legal status of Jerusalem”, and to "31 C/Resolution 31, as well as to the provisions of the four Geneva Conventions (1949), The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) and the related Protocol and to the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), the inscription of the Old City of Jerusalem on the World Heritage List and on the List of World Heritage in Danger and the recommendations, resolutions and decisions of UNESCO on the protection of the cultural heritage".
The boundaries of the World Heritage property coincide with the Walls of Suleyman the Magnificent, as no buffer zone was identified at the time of inscription on the World Heritage List.
In 1982, following the recommendations by ICOMOS, the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls was inscribed by the World Heritage Committee on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The justifications given by the Committee for the Danger listing (Cf. Doc. CLT-82/CH/CONF.015/8), with reference to the Operational Guidelines in force at the time, were the following: "...the situation of the property corresponds to the criteria mentioned in the ICOMOS note and, in particular, to criteria (e) (significant loss of historical authenticity) and (f) (important loss of cultural significance) as far as "ascertained danger" is concerned, and to criteria (a) (modification of juridical status of the property diminishing the degree of its protection), (b) (lack of conservation policy) and (d) (threatening effect of town planning) as far as "potential danger" is concerned."
The above criteria have been considered as being still valid following the assessment by the UNESCO Mission to Jerusalem on the state of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem ands its Walls led from 28 February to 5 March 2004. The following factors have been reported by the mission:
a) Alteration to the urban historic fabric changing the traditional skyline of the Old City: alterations are also affecting the internal structure of vernacular buildings and, in some cases, historic monuments in the Old City;
b) Alteration to the visual integrity of the roofscape within the Old City: the gradual new building development of the areas surrounding the Walls of the Old City negatively and irreversibly affected its traditional view;
c) Lack of maintenance and inappropriate approach in the conservation of historic monuments: with some exceptions, the state of conservation of most of the historic monuments, in particular in the area covered by the Islamic historic monuments, within the Old City is generally poor, due to lack of maintenance and resources. Some sites, moreover, are left in a state of neglect and used as garbage dump. In many cases, the conservation approach does not apply international principles of the relevant ICOMOS Charters;
d) Limitations to free access of labourers and supply of materials for conservation to the site: limited access, especially to Islamic historic monuments, is affecting the implementation of conservation activities;
e) Traffic: increasing vehicular traffic within the Old City is a matter of concern. Traffic causes pollution and vibrations that can affect the state of conservation of the built historic fabric, and the occupation of public spaces generates a negative visual impact;
f) Non-compliance with international standards in the field of archaeological research: archaeological research should take place in conformity with international principles and standards;
g) Natural factors: the region of Jerusalem lies on an active seismic zone. There is no specific risk preparedness policy to protect the Old City and notably its main historic monuments. Water and fluctuations in temperature are also a cause of concern, as they affect the state of conservation of the limestone building materials.