1.         Robben Island (South Africa) (C 916)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1999

Criteria  (iii)(vi)

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/916/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/916/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Tourism Pressure; Lack of monitoring system; Lack of presentation and interpretation.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/916/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2004

A joint IUCN/ICOMOS/ICCROM mission visited Robben Island World Heritage site in South Africa from 6 to 12 February 2004, to assess the state of its conservation at the request of the World Heritage Committee at its 27th session held in June 2003. The mission considered the state of conservation, threats, management arrangements and follow up aspects relevant to the property programmes. The mission also investigated key aspects regarding the cultural and natural heritage, and both the impact of and quality of the tourism experience in the property.


Since its inscription as a World Heritage site in 1999, Robben Island has literally been opened to a floodgate of visitors, and the site management has found the conservation and maintenance of the over 700 structures and buildings, the many layered cultural landscapes and the management of a fragile natural environment a real challenging. The need to open and present the site as quickly as possible required the establishment of a management structure, related quite closely to that of a museum, with individual departments operating autonomously to achieve individual objectives.


Within that management framework staff have developed a diverse range of educational initiatives, responded to urgent infrastructure needs and successfully developed an extraordinary archive of oral and video history and documentation that would otherwise have been quickly dispersed and lost. Meanwhile, Robben Island has naturally emerged as a place of pilgrimage and respect in the new South Africa and its popularity has begun to out-strip the ability of its tourism management and infrastructure to provide either a satisfactory experience for the visitors and to control their impact on the property.


Site visitation rose quickly from 90,000 in 1997 to 309,000 in 2002, with an estimated 570,000 people in 2003. This trend in visitation does not show signs of declining or stabilizing, yet the Robben Island Museum management structure has not adjusted to respond to this dramatic increase.


The islands' natural heritage values have come to be more widely understood, particularly within its context as part of the Cape Floristic region, and the management of its natural values and its cultural landscape qualities are not yet reflected in the islands management structure and conservation priorities.


Several threats to the Robben Island World Heritage site are noted, which if not managed or controlled, could potentially adversely impact on the integrity of the site. Most of these threats and opportunities had already been identified in specialist studies which have been conducted on the island, and concluded that the main challenge for site management was to implement existing recommendations. The threats include: progressive invasion by alien plants; uncontrollable fires; presence of unsuitable large herbivores; presence of feral cats, European rabbits and black rats; over-harvesting and/or poaching of abalone and other marine resources; impact of vehicles and residents/tourists on endangered fauna; littering by residents and visitors; solid waste in the form of discarded vehicles, machinery, building materials and rubble; solid waste from ships/marine litter; impact of marine sewer outfall; impact of vehicles on geological features; impact of infrastructure upgrades and development; exploitation of groundwater; impact of tourism.


IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM note that the key factors preventing effective implementation of the recommendations made in the aforementioned existing reports and specialist studies were:


a)  Poor integration of the various management and policy documentation into a single, comprehensive Conservation Management Plan;


b)  High staff vacancy rate (approximately 25%) resulting in reduced integrated management structures;


c)  The lack of specific annual plans of operation addressing each priority management programme, with appropriate levels of accountability;


d)  Difficulties associated with the operational aspects of maintenance and conservation implementation, leading to a serious lack of certainty of preventive maintenance funding and programming; and increasing deterioration of the sites built heritage.


e)  Lack of proactive management of tourism pressure.


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


Decision Adopted: 28 COM 15B.40

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Noting the results of the IUCN/ICOMOS/ICCROM mission to Robben Island World Heritage property, its findings and recommendations,

2. Requests the State Party to implement the recommendations contained in the report of the IUCN/ICOMOS/ICCROM mission, and in particularly to:
a) review and adopt as appropriate, and implement within an agreed timeframe, recent proposals for rationalization, consolidation and integration of the management structure of the Robben Island Museum,
b) study, with a view to consolidate them into a single Conservation Management Plan, the source documents for the Conservation Management Plan Summary showing medium and long-term programmes identified; ensure that Annual Action Plans of Operation are prepared for conservation and maintenance work at the property; and implement the proposals contained in the Phase 1 Robben Island Tourism Development and Management Plan,
c) conduct a comprehensive analysis of the opportunities and constraints for tourism products based on the unique natural and cultural landscape character of the property, with a view to diversifying the visitor experience and ensuring that positive impacts are enhanced and negative impacts avoided or mitigated,
d) explore linkages with other institutions and programmes such as South African National Parks and the Table Mountain National Park, the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board, the City of Cape Town and Cape Action for People and the Environment to ensure that the wealth of expertise in the region regarding management of the natural and cultural landscape environments is available to the site’s management,
e) establish a Memorandum of Understanding or similar formal relationship with the Public Works Department to strengthen programs' coordination for conservation and maintenance at Robben Island,
f) set-up a statutory body for Robben Island with specific regulatory mechanisms as provided for by the World Heritage Convention Act (1999), for the managing and up keep of the property;

3. Requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2005, a detailed report on the progress on the implementation of the joint IUCN, ICOMOS, ICCROM mission recommendations for review by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.