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)
Total amount granted to Yemeni cultural properties: USD 194,836 from the European Union for damage assessments, capacity development and emergency stabilization of damaged buildings and protection of archaeological sites. Total amount of USD 35,000 from UNESCO Regular Programme for the Sustainable Management of Tangible Heritage in the GCC and Yemen. USD 12,000,000 from the European Union for the project: Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihood Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen (Shibam, Sana’a, Zabid and Aden)

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 2019

On 21 March 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/documents/, and presents the following progress:

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

The security situation in Yemen, in combination with a lack of organizational support and resources, continues to obstruct both effective heritage management and physical conservation works within the property. However, the efforts of the State Party and other international actors, including the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, to provide training, and technical guidelines are commended. These efforts are contributing to the assessment and restoration of damaged monuments and buildings, as well as to the broader objectives of providing shelter. The State Party and its agencies have undertaken work on inventories, evaluation of damage, and repair and conservation works (although details are lacking). It is positive that there are a range of training and community awareness programmes, despite the challenging circumstances. Nevertheless, damages to the historic fabric and the ongoing displacement of residents create a dire situation within the property.

The property continues to require reconstruction plans that reconcile the provision of housing and services with the need to restore damaged precincts and buildings, based on survey and documentation, and by using traditional techniques and materials. Unregulated new constructions and inadequate restorations incrementally affect the OUV of the property. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to continue to consult the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to ensure that works at the property meet basic technical requirements.

The implementation of the European Union funded project Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihood Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen began in 2019 through UNESCO Office in Doha, and is expected to continue until 2021. The project will contribute to promoting livelihood opportunities for youth through urban regeneration activities. It comprises the restoration of particular buildings in the World Heritage Properties of Sana’a, Shibam and Zabid that have been damaged during the ongoing conflict. The project will also contribute to social cohesion and peace-building through targeted cultural programming and support for the civil society. This project is very welcome, while recognising that qualified professionals would be needed for the rehabilitation of buildings.

The reactivation of the High Committee for Old City of Sana’a Protection is a positive step, as is the national symposium for the preservation of Sana’a heritage and the resulting re-enforcement of GOPHCY’s important role in conservation, training, and communication with UNESCO and the Advisory Bodies. However, such exchanges of information need to be backed-up by resources that allow the implementation of physical conservation actions.

In the framework of the Third Cycle of the Periodic Reporting for the Arab States region, information was provided on the issue of desertification owing to the lack of maintenance and water shortage. Buildings were damaged by heavy rains, while problems with the city’s collapsed rainwater collection system require urgent attention. Urban pressure has increased in the buffer zone, with constructions that do not respect the original materials and construction techniques. Construction permits should pass through GOPHCY in order to guarantee compliance with regulations.

Owing to the prevailing security conditions, it remains challenging for the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to provide support to the State Party on first-aid measures and in restoration/reconstruction of damaged structures. Currently, it is not possible to arrange the previously-proposed joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, which would aim at assisting the State Party in developing corrective measures and a timeframe for their implementation, as well as the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR).

The Committee might wish to urge again all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from any further action that would cause damage to the cultural heritage of Yemen and the OUV of the property, and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage.

Support from the international community remains essential for building capacities in adequate preventive and conservation measures at the property. There is no reported progress in finalizing the draft National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020, nor in the implementation of the Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural Heritage, adopted at the UNESCO expert meeting in July 2015. Financial and technical support is necessarily constrained until the security situation improves. However, it might be appropriate for the international community to continue to express its support and, where possible, to offer technical assistance.

Considering the above-mentioned information, it is recommended that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7A.39

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7A.38, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Commends the State Party and its agencies, including the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY) on initiatives undertaken in capacity building, damage assessment, documentation and emergency interventions at the property, and requests that they continue to consult with UNESCO and the Advisory Bodies, and to restore damaged buildings, based on surveys and documentation, using traditional construction techniques and materials as much as possible, to avoid incrementally affecting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  4. Also commends the State Party and its agencies on initiatives undertaken to support and involve community and government organizations, and in campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of cultural heritage;
  5. Expresses its continuing concern at the damage caused to the cultural heritage of Yemen as a result of armed conflict, and that the Old City of Sana’a has incurred irreversible destruction and continues to be vulnerable, owing to the current security situation, ongoing social change and continuing lack of support and resources for both heritage management and physical conservation;
  6. Notes the actions taken to address unauthorized construction of new buildings within the property, which incrementally affect the OUV of the property, also requests the State Party to continue to consult the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in order to ensure that restoration and reconstruction works at the property meet basic technical requirements, and further requests the State Party to submit details for new buildings and new projects to the World Heritage Centre, for examination by the Advisory Bodies, prior to initiating any construction works, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Encourages the State Party to continue its collaboration with the UNESCO Doha Office in the implementation of the Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihood Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen project;
  8. Reiterates the need for a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to advise on repair and conservation works, and to contribute to the development of a set of corrective measures and a timeframe for their implementation, as well as the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), as soon as the security situation in Yemen has improved;
  9. Urges all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from any further action that would cause damage to the cultural heritage and the OUV of the property and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, in particular the safeguarding of properties on the World Heritage List and those included in the Tentative List of Yemen, and also encourages all concerned stakeholders to unite for the preservation of cultural heritage in Yemen;
  10. Reiterates its previous calls to the international community to provide technical and financial support, including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund, 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 calls on the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to continue providing technical assistance and support where needed;
  11. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, 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 44th session in 2020;
  12. Decides to retain Old City of Sana'a (Yemen) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 43 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/19/43.COM/7A, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.3 and WHC/19/43.COM/7A.Add.3.Corr),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: