1.         Aksum (Ethiopia) (C 15)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (i)(iv)

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/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1996-1996)
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; 2015 ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring Mission 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 28 January 2016, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/documents/, outlining progress made in relation to the requests of the Committee:

An ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property took place in February 2016 (mission report available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/documents). 

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

The progress made by the State Party is acknowledged. The 2015 ICOMOS mission report has provided additional observations and analysis regarding a number of the matters that affect the state of conservation of the property.

The unfinished state of the Church Museum continues to have a temporary, but highly negative, impact on the setting and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The Church collections are in a perilous state of conservation. Details of the façade modification should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies and the Church Museum project should be completed as soon as possible. Investigation is required regarding archaeological features that were reported as being discovered during the Church Museum building works.

The boundaries of the property and buffer zone have been formalized through the gazetting of Regulation 246/2015. Detailed maps are required with the physical boundaries of the property and its buffer zone clearly defined. These boundaries do not respond to critical view lines and the continued built fabric as well as the intangible features of the Church in the property.

The gazetting of the Aksum World Heritage Reserve Area Designation, Regulation 346/2015, will contribute to the conservation and management of the property but should be implemented rapidly. This Regulation has addressed in principle the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission regarding the protection of critical viewpoints. However, development guidelines, which include restoration and adaptive reuse, are urgently needed for the property and buffer zone as new construction is affecting the setting and OUV of the property.

The completion of the Management Plan for the property remains a matter of great priority and urgency. Once finalized, the draft Management Plan should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies for review in conjunction with the Thematic Master Plan.

The Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project (ESTDP) was broadly in line with the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme. The designs of the ESTDP interventions should not be applied to other areas of the property such as the Church Compound as they are unsuited to these contexts.

Little progress has been made in either planning the consolidation of Stela III or the investigation of the water problems in the Tomb of the Brick Arches. The 2015 ICOMOS mission identified further problems with rainwater ingress and structural weakness at the Mausoleum, which further compounds the problems faced at the main Stela Field. Any proposal that requires excavation in or around the Tomb of the Brick Arches should not be undertaken and more cautious options should be pursued, following expert advice.

A number of inappropriate developments are underway in the property and the buffer zone and there are a number of proposals, such as landscaping the Church Compound, demolishing the building at the entrance of the Stelae Field and constructing a new entrance building. The State Party should submit details of all such prospective projects to the World Heritage Centre in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

Lastly, upon completion of the Management Plan, it is also recommended that the State Party envisage training for relevant personnel on the requirements of the World Heritage Convention, of the Operational Guidelines and of the Management Plan for Aksum itself.

Decision Adopted: 40 COM 7B.10

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.39, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Congratulates the State Party on the progress made in protecting, conserving and managing the property in accordance with the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  4. Acknowledges the achievements of the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project (ESTDP), broadly in line with the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme, but notes that the designs of the ESTDP interventions should not be applied to other areas of the property;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit details of the façade modification for the Church Museum to the World Heritage Centre for review; to expedite the completion of the Church Museum project, including the conservation of the collections, as soon as possible, and to investigate the archaeological features that were reported as being discovered during the Church Museum building works, and advise the World Heritage Centre accordingly;
  6. Also requests the State Party to finalize and submit the draft Management Plan for Aksum to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review in conjunction with the Thematic Master Plan;
  7. Commends the State Party for gazetting the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, and further requests the State Party to submit the detailed maps of the physical boundaries of the property and its buffer zone to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies updated on the consolidation project for the reinforcement of the foundation of Stela III and the investigation of the causes of the rising water level in the Tomb of the Brick Arches, to continue to seek expert specialist advice, to avoid any proposal that requires excavation in or around the Tomb of the Brick Arches, and to pursue more cautious options;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre details of all current and potential developments within the property and the buffer zone, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Encourages the State Party to instigate training for relevant personnel on the requirements of the Convention, the Operational Guidelines and the Management Plan for Aksum, once finalized;
  11. Also encourages the State Party to continue to implement the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission and to implement the additional recommendations of the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 42nd session in 2018.