At the 33rd session (Seville, 2009), the World Heritage Committee expressed its strong concern regarding the lack of progress in the conservation of the architectural heritage and in developing adequate measures to resolve the problem of illegal occupation and squatting in the areas around the Castle. The World Heritage Committee was also concerned about the continued marine erosion, in particular in the western part of the Island where the most significant historic monuments are located. At the same session, it reiterated its request to the State Party to appoint a site manager to ensure the implementation of the necessary management and conservation activities.
On 29 January 2011, the State Party submitted a succinct report on the state of conservation of the property. From 19 to 22 April 2011, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM mission visited the Island of Gorée, to examine progress achieved in the resolution of the threats to the architectural heritage, the danger due to coastal erosion and the general management issues for the Island. The mission report is available on the link: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM/
a) Deterioration of the architectural heritage
In its report, the State Party notes that architectural heritage conservation is a major component in the safeguarding plan for the Island of Gorée. Therefore, several buildings, including Admiral House, have been the subject of studies and request for financing from development partners for their rehabilitation. Furthermore, and under the supervision of the Cultural Heritage Direction and the Bureau of Architecture and Historic Monuments (BAHM), the Gorée town authorities, in collaboration with the Spanish Government, have completed the rehabilitation of a building as a of accommodation centre in the Adanson Garden. The old harbor master’s office has been transformed into a bank, while the development of the town market is almost complete. Nevertheless, the mission noted that an important number of buildings was seriously degraded and pointed out the lack of regular preventive maintenance in most of the historic buildings, which form part of the property. The mission noted in particular that these efforts on the part of the State Party did not concern the western part of the Island where other buildings of significant historic value continue to deteriorate rapidly (William Ponty School, former Governor’s palace, former hospital, Sisters’ Building). The mission recommended that priority be given most urgently to the consolidation of all the buildings currently under threat, the issue of their complete rehabilitation could be treated at a later date, in a second stage. Further, the mission recommended considering that the squatters moved out of the most threatened buildings in order to make them available for consolidation works. These works could be the opportunity for the State Party to put in place a system of continued training for qualified personnel in works related to restoration and consolidation of technical structures.
b) Coastal erosion
The State Party continues to seek potential partners to resolve this problem, which it recognizes as very worrisome. Nevertheless, it recalls that activities to shore up and halt this erosion were carried out especially around the House of Slaves with support from the Ford Foundation. With regard to the issue of coastal erosion, the mission noted that the different works (buildings, supporting walls, military works, etc.) are even more badly damaged than previously. In addition to the area of the Governor’s Palace, those around the Mariam Bâ School and the Mosque render the situation critical. Although efforts to reduce coastal erosion have been made at the Slave House by means of the construction of a low concrete wall, the mission considers that this wall occults the symbolic image of the “Corridor of no return”, and that it makes the interpretation of this art of the house difficult. However, the mission therefore recommended that urgent consolidation activities continue to be carried out, otherwise the collapse of some of the buildings was at risk in the short-term.
c) Illegal occupation of the buildings and lands
In its report, the State Party recognized that squatting is a genuine problem that increases insecurity in the dilapidated historic buildings and in the areas around the Castle. The report also notes that the solution to this matter must be resolved by the Mayor of Gorée who has responsibility for this because of the policy for the decentralization of competences to the local communities. The State Party also wishes that the World Heritage Committee takes a decision in respect of this situation, as this would assist the actors in the field. The mission noted that this issue of illegal occupation in the Island, even although it has existed for nearly thirty years, must be urgently treated, otherwise some of the degraded buildings may collapse on the occupants. The mission noted the contradictory views concerning illegal occupation and the way this phenomenon has even been justified and tolerated in the island. It recommends that independent studies on the actual need for dwellings and the stability of the occupied buildings be conducted, and that the results will assist in the final decision to be taken by the Mayor and the Ministry of Culture.
d) Management issues
The State Party report announced the appointment of the current conservator of the House of Slaves as the manager of the World Heritage property. The report indicated the creation of a heritage information office on the Island in the near future. The mission noted that the lack of an operational management structure constitutes today a punctual and recognized threat. Even though the National Commission for the safeguarding of Gorée is an efficient institution at the national level, at the local level the commission’s impact still remains limited in the daily management of the property’s safeguarding and conservation issues. The mission noted with satisfaction that the conservator of the House of Slaves had begun his work as manager but it regretted that the administrative decision confirming him in his position had not yet been signed. The mission further recommended that arrangements be made to provide the position of manager with a management structure and appropriate human resources (administration, restoration technicians) and adequate financial resources (operating budget). These arrangements should also include the preparation of a management and conservation plan, as it had already been requested by Decision 28 COM 15B.42, which should prepared in cooperation with the Mayor of Gorée and all the main stakeholders. This plan should constitute regulations, an appropriate and participatory management system, and a short-, medium, and long-term action plan. The mission specified that the safeguarding plan and the local investment plan themselves could not substitute the property’s management plan. These documents could however be integrated as components of this management plan, depending on their compatibility with its objectives and actions.