1.         Timbuktu (Mali) (C 119rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1988

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(v)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1990-2005, 2012-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger


Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

In progress 

Corrective measures identified

In progress

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

In progress 

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1981-2012)
Total amount approved: USD 188,315
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 100,000 from the Italian Funds-in-Trust; UNESCO Emergency Fund: USD 25,000 

Previous monitoring missions

2002, 2004, 2005, 2006: World Heritage Centre missions; 2008, 2009 and 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/ ICOMOS reactive monitoring missions; May, October and December 2012: UNESCO Emergency missions to Mali.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a)  Lack of management structure at the site;

b)  Armed conflict.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

A report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party, which began on 29 January 2013. This report was prepared in the particular context linked to the absence at the site of the management structure since 1 April 2012 due to occupation by armed groups.  During this period of occupation which extended over 10 months, much damage was caused to the main components of the property, notably the mausoleums.  With the military intervention on 11 January 2013, the town of Timbuktu was liberated but the security conditions are not completely stable to be able to evaluate the degree of damage and envisage the reinstallation of the management structure of the property. Therefore, the report is based on information gathered from resource persons who remained at the site. It provides a summary overall view of the situation concerning the elements constituting the property.

a)  State of conservation of the three mosques

The report describes the destruction by armed groups of the two mausoleums Ahmadou Foulane and Baber Babadje built on to the west facade of the Djingareyberre Mosque, and the sacred door of the Sidi Yahia Mosque located on its west side.  The report considers that the damage greatly prejudices the authenticity and integrity of the property.

The report does not provide information on the state of conservation of the Sankore Mosque.

b)  State of conservation of the 16 mausoleums

The report describes the total destruction of 9 of the 16 mausoleums of the property by the armed groups between May and July 2012.  This destruction concerns the following mausoleums known currently under the names: Cheikh Sidi Mahmoud, Alpha Moya, Mohamed Tamba-Tamba, Cheikh Sidi Ahmed Raggadi, Cheikh Sidi Elmicki, Abul Quassim al Tawaty, Cheikh Sidi Elmoctar, Sidi Mohamed Boukkou and Mohamed Sangare le Peul.

The report provides no information on the state of conservation of the mausoleums that remain intact. It considers that a global evaluation of all the components constituting the Timbuktu property should be undertaken.

Furthermore, with a view to the reconstruction of the mausoleums, the World Heritage Centre has begun documentation work with funds and technical assistance provided by the Italian Government.  This work should be finalized before end-June 2013 and be made available to the State Party.

c)  Conservation of the Medina

The report refers to difficulties encountered within the Medina that constitutes the buffer zone. These difficulties concern notably the destruction of the mausoleums, historic monuments and places of memory inscribed on the National Heritage List; the threat of persistent insecurity and distrust among the local populations prevents the communities from undertaking seasonal communal maintenance work on the historic monuments. The report mentions other problems such as the degradation of buildings due to lack of regular maintenance following the rains; the abandon of certain houses in ruins through family inheritance; the invasion of the streets, alleys and public squares by plastic rubbish and waste waters.

In order to mitigate these problems, the report proposes the organization of workshops to reinforce social cohesion and togetherness on the one hand, and to project and organize ceremonies for the restoration of the mausoleums and mosques, on the other.

The report also recommends the revision and updating of the management and conservation plan for the property, to contribute towards its removal from the Danger List. This revision would benefit the guidelines of the Conservation Manual being prepared with assistance from the Italian Government.

d)  Progress in the implementation of the World Heritage Committee decisions

The State Party requested emergency assistance from the World Heritage Fund to strengthen protection of the property. The funds granted for this purpose (for Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia at Gao) foresee, for an amount of USD 50,000, the organization of a national seminar to prepare a preservation strategy for the property involving the local communities. These funds also foresee the organization of a training workshop for humanitarian organizations to advise and provide support for the protection of cultural heritage in crisis situations.

From 8 to 10 April 2013 in Bamako, the State Party also organized a training workshop on the combat against illicit traffic of cultural property financed from emergency funds mobilised by the Director-General of UNESCO. This workshop brought together about thirty participants from Mali and six border countries, as well as agents from the Police, Customs and Gendarmerie forces.

e)  Actions taken by UNESCO for the protection of the property

In order to contribute towards the implementation of Decisions 36 COM 7B.106 and 36 COM 7B.107, UNESCO carried out the following actions, with support from its partners:

Creation of a special account to safeguard the cultural heritage of Mali

In July 2012, at the request of the Committee, the UNESCO Director-General created a Special Account to support the Government of Mali in its efforts to protect and rehabilitate the property affected by the armed conflict.  UNESCO then addressed a circular letter to its Member States requesting them to make a voluntary contribution to this Account.  Croatia and Mauritius responded favourably to this request.

Awareness within the international community

Since the beginning of the crisis in Mali, the Director-General of UNESCO launched ten appeals, urging all the parties to respect the preservation of cultural sites and property, and requesting the mobilization of the international community to support the efforts of the Mali authorities in the protection of its cultural heritage. In parallel, she addressed letters to the powers of the neighbouring countries of Mali, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the European Union (EU), and to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Director-General briefed the Secretary General of the United Nations on a regular basis.

As a result of these actions, the United Nations Security Council adopted three resolutions on Mali in 2012: (Nos. 2056 in July, 2071 in October and 2085 in December) urging the protection of the cultural property of Mali.

UNESCO also carried out two information actions: a document in the format of a passport (8,000 copies) and an A3 format map (2,000 copies) on the cultural heritage of the northern regions of Mali were prepared. These documents provided information on the importance and geographical location (GPS coordinates) of major cultural properties of these regions and were made available to the Mali military authorities and the countries engaged in the military intervention in Mali in December 2012.

Visit of the Director-General to Timbuktu

The UNESCO Director-General visited Timbuktu together with the French President, Mr François Hollande, on 2 February 2013.  This visit constituted a very strong sign of the importance and the role of culture for the reconstruction and reconciliation of the country.  It enabled the Director-General to realize the extent of the damage caused to cultural property, in particular to the mausoleums and the manuscripts and to confirm the urgent need for a mission to be sent to the site as soon as possible to evaluate the exact extent of damage and initiate reconstruction actions.

On 8 February 2013, the Director-General organized a meeting of the Member States of UNESCO to brief them on the results of her mission.

Preparation of an Action Plan to safeguard cultural heritage and the ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu

At the initiative of France and UNESCO, a Day of Solidarityfor Mali was organised on 18 February 2013 at UNESCO Headquarters. During the day, an international expert meeting was held and, under the impetus of a group of experts on Mali established by UNESCO, resulted in the adoption of an Action Plan for the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage and safeguarding of ancient manuscripts in Mali. This expert group included the following institutions: International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites(ICOMOS), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), School of African Heritage (EPA), African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), International Center for Earthen architecture, – National Superior School of Architecture in Grenoble (CRAterre-ENSAG).Following this meeting, the Government of Mali addressed a letter to UNESCO requesting its support in the implementation of the Action Plan.  The Kingdom of Norway provided the first response by granting financial assistance of USD 170,000 to safeguard the manuscripts of Timbuktu.

Organization of an evaluation mission to Timbuktu


As soon as security conditions will allow, the evaluation mission decided upon by the UNESCO Director-General, will take place.  Its primary goal is a detailed technical evaluation of the extent of the damage caused to the Mali cultural heritage, notably in Timbuktu in order to determine priority actions for rehabilitation and conservation to be carried out in cooperation with the Government of Mali and the United Nations Coordination Bureau in Mali; and to examine the Action Plan adopted on 18 February by UNESCO. This mission will include expertise from the Advisory Bodies (ICCROM and ICOMOS).

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that due to armed conflict in the northern regions of Mali, no mission has visited the site to evaluate the state of degradation caused to the property and to propose corrective measures, as well as to evaluate the Desired State of Conservation, as requested by the Committee. They expressed concern as to the extent of damage, in particular regarding the destruction of the mausoleums and the door on the west side of the Djingareyberre Mosque.

They commend the commitment and availability of the State Party throughout the crisis, enabling the collection of information on the extent of the degradation, raising awareness and mobilising the international community and the preparation of an Action Plan for Mali.

They consider that the UNESCO mission to visit Timbuktu shall be determinate in envisaging the corrective measures and in defining the reconstruction strategy for the cultural properties that have been destroyed.


They further consider that this reconstruction strategy should closely involve the local communities who are the main custodians of the cultural property.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7A.19

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add,

2.  Recalling Decisions 36 COM 7B.106 and 36 COM 7B.107 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Commends the State Party for having requested emergency assistance from the World Heritage Fund to implement priority actions to strengthen the protection of the Timbuktu property;

4.  Expresses its concern regarding the damage caused to the Timbuktu property, in particular to the 11 mausoleums and the door on the western side of the Djingareyberre Mosque and the lack of maintenance and conservation activities concerning the other elements that constitute the property, which threatens the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Timbuktu;

5.  Also expresses its concern with regard to the State Party’s inability to field a mission to evaluate the precise state of conservation of the property and propose measures for the preservation of its OUV, due to armed conflict;

6.  Thanks the Director-General of UNESCO for the efforts deployed to respond to Decisions 36 COM 7B.106 and 36 COM 7B.107, notably through the creation of a Special Account to safeguard Mali cultural heritage and raise awareness within the international community;

7.  Also thanks France, Mali and UNESCO for having organized a solidarity day for Mali during which an international expert meeting was held resulting in the adoption of an Action Plan for the rehabilitation of cultural heritage and the ancient manuscripts of Mali;

8.  Further thanks the UNESCO expert group on Mali, composed of the Advisory Bodies (ICOMOS, ICCROM), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), the School of African Heritage (EPA), the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) and International Center for Earthen architecture, – National Superior School of Architecture in Grenoble (CRAterre-ENSAG) for having contributed to the preparation of this Action Plan in close cooperation with Malian and French experts;

9.  Requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to prepare the corrective measures as well as a Desired State of Conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, once the situation in the northern regions of Mali is stable, and after the UNESCO evaluation mission to Timbuktu;

10.  Launches an appeal to the State Parties to the World Heritage Convention , African Union, European Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), other African organizations and the international community to contribute to the implementation of the Action Plan for the rehabilitation of the cultural heritage and safeguarding of ancient manuscripts in Mali;

11.  Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a detailed report on the state of conservation of the property, and specifically the progress achieved for the preservation of its OUV, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

12.  Decides to retain Timbuktu (Mali) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-13/37.COM/7A, WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add and WHC-13/37.COM/7A.Add.
  2. Decides to maintain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: