1.         Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Panama) (C 135)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (i)(iv)

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

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/135/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-1993)
Total amount approved: USD 76,800
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/135/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

November 2001: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission; March 2010: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Deterioration and destruction of the fabric of the property by environmental factors, lack of a maintenance programme, polluted water;

b) Erosion;

c) Absence of management policies included in Management Plans;

d) Uncontrolled urban development;

e) Tourism pressures (in particular at Portobelo);

f) Torrential rains.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/135/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 1 February 2012. In addition to general site information, the report includes as well information related to the work undertaken by the State Party in the preparation of the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value. Succinct information was included relating to factors affecting the property, management and monitoring. The draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value was submitted to the World Heritage Centre and is presently being reviewed by ICOMOS.

a) Definition of boundaries and buffer zone for the components of the property

The report indicates that the boundaries for San Lorenzo, including a buffer zone, are under review by the Ministry of Economy and Finance as part of the final steps to transfer the property to INAC´s jurisdiction. As for Portobelo, the definition of boundaries for each fortified structure remains a task to be accomplished as part of the ongoing Land Use Plan for the District of Portobelo. No timeframe has been provided for the completion of this definition, and the progress made is similar to that reported in 2010.

b) State of conservation

The report includes information similar to that provided in past years pertaining to the factors affecting the property. Based on the identification of the most endangered areas, an Emergency Plan was developed to prioritise interventions in areas with risk of collapse, however, no interventions have been implemented in these areas. The conservation survey was not included in the report. Interventions were classified as minor (crack repair, replacement of missing stone and brick, biological control and drainage cleaning) and major (which require structural interventions). The State Party’s report states that in 2011, minor interventions were developed at both components of the property. Designs for future structural interventions were identified and building specifications and administrative documents are in the process of development. Interventions were mainly limited to the removal of all debris from the 2010 landslide. The “counteractive plan” – Plan Portobelo 2011-2012 is included in the report to address major threats such as landslides and deterioration. The State Party also reports that a reforestation programme will take place after the reinforcement of areas susceptible to landslides. Progress made in the actions listed continues to be in the planning stages and no urgent interventions, critical to maintaining the integrity of the property have been carried out. Also no timeframe has been provided for the implementation of these urgent and major structural interventions.

c) Management arrangements

The report indicates that the Patronato of Portobelo and San Lorenzo currently has 19 employees in charge of preventive maintenance and basic masonry repair, in addition to 1 field architect. Capacity building needs are also noted. As for financial resources, in 2011 funding was increased compared to previous years. With the exception of the amount used for salary and administrative processes, no indication is provided on the specific use of these funds in relation to the property’s conservation. No budget provisions for 2012 have been included nor is there any indication of the sustainability of these resources.

In terms of the Management Plan, no information is provided on the current status of its development. In the 2011 State Party report, it was indicated that the terms of reference for the Plan’s development were being formulated and that this process would commence in June 2011. The Management Plan for the property has been pending since the 2001 reactive monitoring mission recommended its drafting. 

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that no progress has been made in the implementation of measures adopted at the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee (UNESCO, 2011). Efforts continue to be inadequate to address the poor and fragile state of conservation of the property. Despite the budget increase, the implementation of measures to address the conservation of the built fabric, urban expansion, encroachment and reforestation have remained in the planning stages for over ten years. The Emergency Plan has only been partially developed and no precise indication on the expected timeframe for implementation has been provided. There are still critical needs in terms of staffing and resources, as well as capacities to systematically implement conservation, management and protection actions for the property.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies reiterate that the prevailing conditions will take significant time and resources to be reversed, and there is at present an imminent risk of collapse of the structures, with no assessment of mechanical risks completed. The property currently faces significant ascertained threats as indicated in Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines, and the World Heritage Committee might wish to inscribe the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in order to garner the necessary support and mobilise resources for the implementation of the Emergency Plan and related appropriate measures to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value of this property is not irreversibly compromised. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.102

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.   Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.129, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2010),

3.   Notes the limited implementation of activities being carried out by the State Party with regards to the fragile state of conservation of the property;

4.   Reiterates its deep concern regarding the state of conservation of the property, in particular the significant and accelerated degradation of the historic fabric which directly impacts its Outstanding Universal Value, and the lack of significant progress made in addressing the decay conditions of the property;

5.   Urges the State Party to finalize the processes related to the establishment of boundaries, buffer zones and the related regulations of the two components of the inscribed property, and to submit them within the Retrospective Inventory process of the Periodic Reporting exercise in the Latin America and the Caribbean region;

6. Considers that the State Party has not complied with all the requests expressed by previous World Heritage Committee Decisions, and that therefore the property is in danger in conformity with Chapter IV.B of the Operational Guidelines and decides to inscribe the Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Panama) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

7.   Adopts the following Desired state of conservation for the property, for its future removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger:

a)  The approval and full implementation of an emergency plan, a comprehensive assessment of structural and mechanical risks, preventative conservation strategy and maintenance measures at San Lorenzo and Portobelo,

b)  National laws and policies for the conservation of built heritage at San Lorenzo and Portobelo defined and in place,

c)  Long-term consolidation and conservation through annual plans for the components of the inscribed property ensured,

d)  The operational and participatory management system, including its related public use plan, approved and implemented,

e)  The Management Plan fully integrated within territorial and urban development plans,

f)   Encroachments and urban pressure adequately controlled,

g)  The boundaries and buffer zone of all component parts of the World Heritage property precisely clarified, 

h)  Budgets for the preparation, implementation and follow-up of the management structures and conservation measures secured;

8.   Also adopts the following corrective measures and the timeframe for their implementation:

a)  To be carried out immediately (by September 2012-March 2013)

(i)  Risk assessment completed for all structures and built materials, and an Emergency Plan for all the components of the property in coherence with the recommendations of the reactive monitoring mission and defined timeframe and phasing for their implementation finalized,

(ii)   Operational management arrangements and budgets for its implementation ensured,

(iii)  Budgets for the implementation of the Emergency Plan (first stage) secured,

(iv)   Encroachments and urban pressure adequately controlled and reforestation undertaken,

(v)   Technical Office in Portobelo to secure the implementation of the conservation measures and management arrangements set up and functioning,

b)  To be carried out within one year (by September 2013)

First phase of the Emergency Plan implemented:


(i)  Boundaries and buffer zones for each of the component parts of the property defined,

(ii)  Regulatory measures for the established buffer zones for controlling development and addressing existing threats finalized and approved,

(iii) Monitoring indicators as a tool to assess the state of conservation of the fortified built heritage put in place,

          Management and Planning

(iv) Development of a Management Plan begun,

(v)  Awareness raising activities within the local communities to identify opportunities for eco and cultural tourism to contribute to the improvement of living conditions of the surrounding communities undertaken in full coherence with the conservation measures for the property,

c)  To be carried out within two years (by September 2014):

          Second Phase of the Emergency Plan implemented


(i)  National laws and policies for the conservation of built heritage at San Lorenzo and Portobelo developed,

          Management and planning

(i)  Management Plan for the property, including scheduled and costed provisions for conservation, preventative conservation and maintenance of built heritage, public use, and risk management finalized, approved and adopted,

(ii)  Management, territorial and urban development plans integrated,

(iii)  Annual conservation plans for each of the components of the inscribed property developed and in place,

d)  To be carried out within two-three years (by September 2015):

(i)   Implementation of the Emergency Plan completed,

(ii)  Operational management arrangements and budgets for the continued implementation of the approved Management Plan secured;

9.   Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre a financial estimation of the costs associated with the implementation of each of the corrective measures, and invites the State Party to consider a request for international assistance from the World Heritage Fund for technical support ;

10.  Also urges the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, as well as other relevant bodies, to cooperate with the State Party to implement the adopted corrective measures;

11.   Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 8C.1

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Following the examination of the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (WHC-12/36.COM/7B and WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add) and of proposals for inscription of properties on the World Heritage List (WHC-12/36.COM/8B and WHC-12/36.COM/8B.Add),
  2. Decides to inscribe the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: