1.         Old City of Sana'a (Yemen) (C 385)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1986

Criteria  (iv)(v)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2015-present

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

Damages and threats related to the armed conflict in Yemen

Corrective measures identified

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1990-2014)
Total amount approved: USD 101,997
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: 1988: USD 374,800, UNDP/UNESCO project in support of local staff training and fund-raising. 2004-2006: USD 60,000 for the Inventory of the historic city (Italian Funds-in-Trust); USD 12,000 for technical assistance in support of the reconstruction of the al-Qasimi neighborhood (Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH))

Previous monitoring missions

1998, 1999, 2003: World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2003 to 2005, and 2010: World Heritage Centre and experts missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 29 March 2016, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/documents/.

The State Party reports that, the property continues to be affected by political, security and socio-economic disturbances, and most of all by armed conflict which broke out in 2015 and caused irreversible damage. In June and in September 2015, the armed conflict led respectively to the destruction, or severe damages to al-Qasimi and al-Folihi neighborhoods, with complete destruction of a total of 8 buildings and damage to 100 others in the property. Shelling in the mountains surrounding Sana’a have also caused damages due to strong vibrations. Despite lack funds the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY), in coordination with UNESCO Doha has conducted technical studies and documented damage at the property. 

GOPHCY has participated in workshops in Amman, Cairo and Tunis focused on capacity building to respond to the effects of the continuing crisis and conflicts and on related first-aid measures. In parallel, UNESCO Doha and ICCROM provided GOPHCY with technical assistance with regards to damage assessment, first-aid measures and reconstruction plans for al-Qasimi neighborhood. Restoration guidelines formulated by the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS reinforced this technical assistance.

An expert meeting convened by UNESCO has identified urgent action to address the impact of the conflict on Yemeni heritage, but the plans arising from this work are yet to be implemented.

The State Party reiterated its call for GOPHCY to be duly consulted in the Water and Sewerage Rehabilitation Project should it be reactivated, and that a Heritage Impact Assessment be done before its implementation.  

The State Party has indicated that international support continues to be essential to the protection of Yemeni heritage and to facilitate the preparation of a plan for post-conflict conservation, measures, protection processes and maintenance. The State Party therefore proposes that an international conference should be convened to promote the importance of cultural heritage, to highlight recent destruction, to prepare technical proposals and raise awareness of the need for financial support for implementation of the measures needed to necessary protect and conserve Yemen’s cultural heritage and that national staff be further trained outside Yemen.

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

The armed conflict in Yemen has severely affected the property and continues to constitute a serious threat. GOPHCY’s commitment and involvement in damage assessment, documentation and first-aid interventions, and their continuous communication with the World Heritage Centre, UNESCO Doha and the Advisory Bodies is commendable.

In July 2015, UNESCO organized an Expert Meeting which elaborated an Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural Heritage, with short, medium and long term actions some of which can be conducted by the State Party with remote technical support by UNESCO and the Advisory Bodies, but which would require financial support.

GOPHCY has consulted the World Heritage Centre on the possible reconstruction of seven destroyed historical buildings in al-Qasimi neighbourhood, following great pressure from the inhabitants who lost their homes. On exceptional basis, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS supported these reconstruction plans to sustain shelter for the inhabitants, and provided clear technical restoration guidelines, in parallel with UNESCO Doha and ICCROM’s technical assistance; these guidelines focused on the need to conduct engineering studies linked to the water-table, the structural stability of the adjacent buildings, and to the safety of the inhabitants, in addition to accurate documentation, the use of traditional construction techniques and material. Although GOPHCY has and is pursuing these guidelines, the project stopped due to lack of funds. It is important for the international community to support proper funding and capacity building to conduct adequate preventive and restoration measures at the property, in relation with the armed conflict, in the framework of the July 2015 Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural heritage. Although future donor support is necessarily constrained unless and until the security situation improves, emergency interventions for the reconstruction of destroyed houses require immediate financial and technical support, to sustain people’s livelihoods and ensure that these interventions include due consideration of the property’s World Heritage status.

The implementation of the International Assistance Request (IAR) on “Preparation of the conservation plan – Old City of Sana’a (I phase inventory update)” (IA2014-2665) is currently halted due to inadequate response by the State Party in terms of the World Heritage Fund’s administrative procedures. Moreover, the current governance crisis in Yemen has led to internal changes within GOPHCY that might affect further its already difficult working conditions. It is important that heritage professionals be called upon to transcend political differences in preserving their cultural heritage.

The Water and Sewerage project is halted due to the conflict, but that the World Heritage Committee’s position on this project should be maintained. Owing to the conflict, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies cannot currently provide further support to the State Party on the Action Plan for the National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020.

Decision Adopted: 40 COM 7A.24

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.59, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Expresses its great concern at the recent damage caused to the cultural heritage of Yemen as a result of escalating armed conflict, and that the Old City of Sana’a has incurred irreversible destruction and severe damage due to the armed conflict, and continues to be vulnerable owing to the deteriorating security situation, the ongoing social change and continuing lack of organisational support and resources for both heritage management initiatives and physical conservation projects;
  4. Commends the State Party for its commitment and involvement in damage assessment, documentation and first-aid interventions, and for its continuous communication with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and encourages all concerned stakeholders to unite for the preservation of cultural heritage in Sana’a;
  5. Notes that the State Party has started the preparation of the reconstruction project for the seven destroyed buildings in al-Qasimi neighbourhood on an exceptional basis linked to the need of providing shelter for the inhabitants of Sana’a;
  6. Urges the State Party to pursue its dialogue with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in all restoration and/or reconstruction processes to ensure the safety of the inhabitants and the respect of international conservation standards;
  7. Calls on the international community to provide financial support for the implementation of the Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural heritage, adopted at the UNESCO Expert meeting in July 2015, including funding for capacity building and first-aid restoration and protection measures, and also calls on the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to continue providing the State Party with technical assistance and support where needed;
  8. Also urges all parties associated with the situation in Yemen to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to cultural heritage of Sana’a and the country and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, in particular the safeguarding of World Heritage properties and the sites included in the Tentative List;
  9. Reiterates its request that the State Party:
    1. Maintain a moratorium on new development or new construction, pending completion of the proposed Conservation Plan and, where appropriate, project-specific heritage impact assessments,
    2. Prior to proceeding with the proposed rehabilitation of the water and sewerage project, prepare a HIA, which includes assessment of impacts on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in line with the relevant ICOMOS guidelines and submit a copy of the HIA to the World Heritage Centre prior to making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Also requests the State Party, as soon as it is feasible and in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a set of corrective measures and a timeframe for their implementation, as well as a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  11. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the state of conservation of the property and identify measures needed to reverse the decay and ensure the conservation and protection of the property, as soon as the security situation allows;
  12. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, 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 41st session in 2017;
  13. Decides to retain Old City of Sana'a (Yemen) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 40 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/16/40.COM/7A, WHC/16/40.COM/7A.Add and WHC/16/40.COM/7A.Add.2),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: