The States Parties of France and Spain submitted two separate state of conservation reports on 1 February 2010, in relation to the issues raised in Decision 33 COM 7B.40, on (a) transboundary management arrangements, (b) increased support for Agropastoralism, (c) the impacts of the Gavarnie Festival, (d) the closure of the Troumouse Road. A joint report by the State Parties, as requested by the World Heritage Committee, was not submitted. In addition to the points reported on below, the report of the State Party of France contains a useful résumé of points of progress in the management of the property in the last ten years.
a) Transboundary Management Arrangements
Both State Party reports confirm the establishment of a Charter of Cooperation between the two relevant national park authorities: Parc National d’Ordesa et du Monte Perdido (Spain) and the Parc National des Pyrenées (France), and of a nine-person Joint Steering Committee including both park agencies as well as other stakeholder representatives for its implementation. The six-page text of the Charter is provided in the Spanish State Party report. The States Parties also provide details, in different forms, of joint activities that are foreseen to be undertaken as well as details of a number of transboundary meetings and technical working groups that are in operation, as well as a proposal for a bid to the EU Interreg IV programme regarding joint management. The Charter indicates that the States Parties view the two national parks as the main guarantors of the management of the property, and establishes common high level objectives for both Parks. The Charter specifies mechanisms of cooperation via the presence of observer seats on each others management bodies for the other park, and two meetings annually: one at directorate level, and one at technical level. A number of points of cooperation are noted, at the general level, on topics such as sustainable development, monitoring, joint planning, coordination of information, signage and school exchanges. A plan of action related to the Charter is also provided in the report by Spain, whilst the report by France notes a number of “perspectives 2010” regarding possible future projects.
The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies consider that the establishment of the Joint Steering Committee and Charter are positive steps that appear to provide the start of an effective response to the need for strengthened and consistent transboundary management of the property. The full extent of this cooperation is not fully clear from the reports, and durable terms of reference and regular meetings and follow up actions need to be confirmed. The lack of a joint report, as previously requested by the World Heritage Committee, and the differences in the level and nature of the information provided indicate that there is still some way to go to establish a fully functional transboundary approach. As such arrangements inevitably take a considerable period of time to become established, it appears that a reasonable start has been made, however, it is important for continued and strengthened commitment and evidence of concrete results. A fully developed joint management approach appears to be still at least one to two years away from realization and as with other transboundary properties should include a clear joint mangament plan for the property as whole. In relation to the joint transboundary workshop involving both the Advisory Bodies and World Heritage Centre, which was requested by the World Heritage Committee, the State Party of France mentions that the completion of a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (see below) will help support the effectiveness of such a workshop. Such a workshop remains necessary to fully understand the situation and plans for the future, and to determine the measures required sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
The State Party of France reports on a programme for restoration of the pastoral heritage (cabanes) indicating various structures that were restored in 2006 and 2007. There is no mention in the report of any other measures to support the agro-pastoralist systems and no mention in the report from the State Party of Spain on any matters connected to agro-pastoralism.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies remain concerned that the decision of the Committee that increased support be given to agro-pastoralism as the main process that shaped the cultural landscape, has not been taken into account. They consider that one of the key priorities of the new management agreement should be to ensure that the agro-pastoralist system is seen as the basis for sustainable management of the landscape in both National Parks.
c) The impacts of the Gavarnie Festival
The issue of the Gavarnie Festival is reported on by the State Party of France, as it is located on French territory. The State Party of France firstly maintains its position that the impacts of the Gavarnie Festival are not significant regarding the integrity of the property, due to the limit in time and space of the festival, and considers that there are no permanent impacts on the property. The State Party notes a number of measures that were taken for the 2008 and 2009 festivals that it considered to have further reduced its impact. It also notes a number of new measures that are being acted on by the organizers including visitor management, reduction of a number of the festival facilities, provision of public information and decreasing the presence of the festival infrastructure to 8 days before the event, and 3 days afterwards. The State Party further reports that the possibility to transfer the festival to a different location, Prat-Bert, is not possible as the owner of the land seems unwilling to agree to the relocation on his land.
As noted in previous reports the key issue is the incongruity of the presence of the festival with the value for which the property was recognised on the World Heritage List, and the relocation which the State Party of France agreed to undertake at the time of inscription, but has not been achieved. The World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session requested a detailed plan and schedule for the relocation of the Gavarnie Festival or mitigation of all of its negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies consider that the report does not fully meet this request. However the measures taken, or proposed, do appear to materially reduce the impacts of this event. The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies remain of the view that relocation of the Festival is the only acceptable long-term solution, as advised to the world Heritage Committee at its 33rd session, time is needed to negotiate this outcome, which will take more than a single year of work. As the locality at Prat-Bert is not practicable in the foreseeable future, it is recommended that other alternative locations be investigated, to allow for the transfer of the Festival outside the property. In the meantime, the continued reduction of the impacts of the Festival are welcome, but are not a substitute for the action being undertaken by the State Party of France, in line with the commitment it made at the time of inscription. In previous reports it was also noted that the Festival receives a subvention of public funds from the State authorities, and thus there is a clear means by which the State Party could influence the situation to a more satisfactory outcome, by making its future funding on the condition of relocation.
d) The closure of the Troumouse Road
The issue of the closure of the Troumouse Road is reported on by the State Party of France, as it is located on French territory. The State Party reports that the commune of Gèdre is in favour of studies on the options to reorganize the traffic arrangements for the Troumouse Road, and the completion of one phase of an expert study to consider the options for management of the road and surrounding areas in the event of its closure. This envisages closure of the road at Héas, except to busses and authorized users, the establishment of a minibus service to Troumouse, and a programme of landscape restoration and the establishment of additional museographic display spaces. A further study will be undertaken in early 2010 to consider the options for the establishment of the bus services and the economic scenarios. The State Party of France notes that it will remain for the commune of Gèdre to take a decision, recalling the agreed overall objective to close the Troumouse Road to private traffic. If agreed the proposed amendments would be included in a programme of work for the property.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies welcome the announcement of these studies, which if completed and acted upon as outlined in the State Party report, would appear to address the concern previously expressed by the world Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Centre, should be notified about the plans as foreseen in paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. Further information on the agreement to the proposals, and the provision of the necessary funding would also be required.
e) Other conservation issues – Statement of Outstanding Universal Value
The World Heritage Committee also requested the States Parties to develop a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property, in cooperation with the Advisory Bodies. A first draft of such a statement, not yet been discussed with the Advisory Bodies, is annexed to both State Party reports. This statement does not represent a completed draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value ready for review as it is not in the format required. It is partly in French and partly in Spanish and deals with the French and Spanish components in separate sections. The submitted Draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value requires reconsideration before submission to the World Heritage Committee, following further discussion and review with IUCN and ICOMOS, and it is recommended that this is undertaken through the transboundary workshop that has been requested by the World Heritage Committee.
In summary, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that there is evidence of progress in addressing a number of the key issues facing this property, which if sustained and increased over the coming years could address the most significant issues facing the property. The progress in the establishment of a joint management body, charter and related action plan is the most notable point and appears to be complemented by implementation at both management and operational levels. However, mechanisms to achieve more active support for agro-pastoralism have not been addressed and there is concern that this issue did not feature at all in the report form the State Party of Spain and only briefly in the report from the State Party of France. The positive progress on the Troumouse Road is welcome as a basis for implementation of a long-term solution to this issue. Nevertheless, the continued lack of a joint report, the differences in the format and content of some of the information provided indicates that further efforts are required to fully establish an effective approach. The establishment of structures and processes is also still at an early stage with relative modest results, and needs to be accompanied by the completion of a jointly agreed management plan for the property as a whole, and sustained delivery of policy and action. The issue of the Gavarnie Festival remains unresolved and requires further action by the State Party of France. Its impact cannot simply be redefined as insignificant, considering that its incongruous presence in one of the most important and sensitive locations within the property has been repeatedly identified as having a significant impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
In view of evidence of progress, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that a period of two years should be adopted before a further report on the state of conservation of the property is requested, during which time actions should be completed to (i) establish fully the joint management body, a joint management plan and an ongoing programme of actions and joint reporting, (ii) carry out activities in relation to agropastoralism, (iii) continue to reduce the impacts of the Gavarnie Festival and identify other alternatives for its relocation and (iv) complete and implement the plans for closure of the Troumouse Road. To complement these requirements, the transboundary workshop requested by the Committee should be carried out as soon as possible, to both complete the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property, and to reinforce the development of durable transboundary cooperation and the necessary management and action plans to support this.