Aksum (Ethiopia) (C 15)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1980
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/15/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 2,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount provided: USD 5.07 million by the Italian Funds-in-Trust for the “Aksum Archaeological Site Improvement Project: Preparatory studies for the reinstallation of the Obelisk and capacity building for archaeological conservation - Phase 1”, "Reinstallation of the Obelisk - Phase 2” and “Consolidation of Stele III”.
Previous monitoring missions
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009: missions of the World Heritage Centre and experts for the implementation of the Obelisk project; 2010 and 2013: Joint Reactive Monitoring missions World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS.
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Insufficient delimitation of this serial property
- Lack of conservation and management plans
- Lack of appropriate urban planning and building regulations
- Urban encroachment and inappropriate new developments
- Rising water level / seepage
- Structural instability of Stele III
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015
On 29 January 2015, the State Party of Ethiopia submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/documents/, highlighting progress made in relation to the requests of the Committee:
- The construction work on the Church Museum is still being carried-out and has not yet been completed, but the facades are planned to be synchronized with the visual integrity of the World Heritage site and its surroundings. Indigenous trees within the church compound, especially those facing the main Stele field, shall be maintained for their historical significance to the Church of Saint Mary of Zion. A computer-generated image of the museum façade is included as an annex to the report as the final plan for the Church Museum. This image is part of a complete set of detailed plans originally submitted to the World Heritage Centre in 2012.
- The management plan for Aksum World Heritage property has been developed in close collaboration with the Department of Archaeology in the University of Aksum.
- The Aksum Master Plan has been developed through a series of stakeholders consultations, and a thematic Master Plan was designed to address specific management issues of the World Heritage property. This Thematic Master Plan was endorsed by the regional government to ensure that any development endeavour in the town of Aksum shall be in line with heritage management concerns.
- The National Mapping Agency assisted the State Party in finalizing the boundary delineation of Aksum World Heritage property. This was based on previous survey works, and carried-out in consultation with stakeholders. Draft maps of the boundary were thus developed and included in the draft law of the property, which still needs to be endorsed by the Council of Ministers. The draft maps include the proposed core and buffer zones for the boundary of the property, and were included as an annex in the State Party report.
- A letter received on 22 April 2014 informed the World Heritage Centre of the State Party’s decision to finance the consolidation project for the reinforcement of the foundation of the Stele III and the investigation of the causes of the rising water level in the Tomb of the Brick Arches. A team of experts has been assigned to identify the root cause of the rising water table in the Tomb of the Brick Arches. In September 2014, UNESCO assisted the State Party with the identification of experts to supervise and coordinate the engineering project for the consolidation of the Foundation of Stele III. Operational activities are underway to implement the engineering document of the project.
- Numerous households have been relocated from the core area of the property following the resettlement plan. They also highlight that the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project includes a component on Aksum, which includes development of a Visitor Centre and landscaping based on the thematic master plan of the area. Lastly, the vacant old settlement of the historic site needs to be regenerated in order to add value to the World Heritage property.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
The progress reported by the State Party in response to the Committee’s requests is acknowledged, and it is recommended that the Committee congratulate the State Party on its decision to finance the consolidation project for the reinforcement of the foundation of Stele III and the investigation of the causes of the rising water level in the Tomb of the Brick Arches. It should be noted however that the agreed-upon consolidation document for the reinforcement of the foundation of Stele III dates back to 2010, and the State Party may wish to consider updating the technical and financial aspects of the document prior to its implementation.
Although progress is reported on the development of the Management Plan and Thematic Master Plan for Aksum, these documents should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies for review once they are finalized.
The efforts undertaken by the State Party to produce a final draft of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone are noted, and the State Party should be encouraged to carefully follow the specifications for the production of maps provided by the World Heritage Centre. It is recommended that the Committee remind the State Party of the urgency of its request to submit revised maps to the World Heritage Centre in view of an eventual Minor Boundary Modification.
Regarding the visual impact of the Church Museum and the submission of the final plans of the building to the World Heritage Centre, the State Party was requested to amend the façade to take account of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission's views. The State Party reports that it is complying; however, the final plan submitted as an annex to the State Party report only includes an image from the original plan submitted to the World Heritage Centre in 2012. As the State Party reports that significant progress has been made but the construction work is not yet finished, it will be important to send an ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to ensure that the visual integrity of the World Heritage property and its surroundings are not being affected.
In addition to reviewing the progress on the Church Museum, a joint Reactive Monitoring mission will also be necessary to review the management mechanisms, advise on the boundary modification and assess the progress made on the consolidation of the Stele III and the investigation of the rising water level in the tomb of the Brick Arches. Moreover, the mission could also evaluate whether the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project is in line with the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme.
Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.39
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decisions 36 COM 7B.41 and 37COM 7B.38, adopted at its 36th (Saint-Petersburg, 2012), and 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) sessions respectively,
- Congratulates the State Party for affirming its commitment to financing the consolidation project for the reinforcement of the foundation of Stele III and the investigation of the causes of the rising water level in the Tomb of the Brick Arches; and urges it to keep the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies updated on:
- any changes in the agreed-upon project document for Stele III,
- the results of the investigation of the rising water level;
- Acknowledges the reported progress on the construction of the Church Museum but notes that it remains unclear how the façade will be amended to take account of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission's views and therefore, requests the State Party to submit relevant plans and drawings;
- Also notes the reported development of the Management Plan for Aksum in close collaboration with the Department of Archaeology at Aksum University, and encourages the State Party to remain vigilant that the Plan ensures that critical viewpoints are maintained and tools put in place for monitoring visual impacts;
- Further notes the development of the Thematic Master Plan and also requests that copies of these documents be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies once they are finalized;
- Reiterates the urgency of finalizing the clarification of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, according to the specifications for maps provided by the World Heritage Centre to the State Party, and also reiterates its request to the State Party to submit a minor boundary modification to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2016 for examination by the World Heritage Committee;
- Also encourages the State Party to liaise closely with the World Heritage Centre in the development and implementation of the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project;
- Further encourages the State Party to continue implementing the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission, and further requests the State Party to invite an ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, before the end of 2015, to review the progress made on the above issues and to examine the state of conservation of the property;
- Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.