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 to the property: 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 3”.

Previous monitoring missions

2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009: missions of the World Heritage Centre and experts for the implementation of the project. 2010: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Insufficient delimitation of this serial property;

b) Lack of conservation and management plans;

c) Lack of appropriate urban planning and building regulations; 

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2010

On 29 January 2010, a report on the state of conservation of Aksum was submitted by the State Party. The report addressed Decision 32 COM 7B.46 of the World Heritage Committee. A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission visited Aksum on 4-8 February 2010. The main recommendations of the mission relate to the need for the definition of boundaries, for a retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, for a Memorandum of Understanding on governance arrangements, for qualified staff, for planning controls, for a Management Plan, and to address the structural instability of Stele 3 and related rising water table issues. The mission also commented on the re-installation of Stele 2, and site interpretation and the need to control encroachment and development and in particular the planned construction of a large museum within the property.

a) Provision of a map showing the boundary of the property and the buffer zone:

The State Party reports that the boundary was discussed and a map drawn at the site management capacity building workshop organised by the World Heritage Centre in May 2008; this map constitutes a first draft of the property’s boundaries and buffer zone. The Mission considered there was an urgent need to formalise the boundaries.

b) Rising Water Table at Stelae Park:

The mission reported that as the rise in the water table or water seepage in the Bricks Arch Tomb continues and drainage using an electric pump appears to be only a temporary solution; a study by a civil engineer and a hydrologist must be carried out to identify the reasons and seek ways to divert drainage away from the funerary chambers. The temporary structural supports for Stele 3 must now be seen as permanent until there is a better understanding of the causes and possible remedial action.

The World Heritage Committee, at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) had invited the State Party to address the water table issue through an international assistance request. The mission members reiterated this possibility during their meeting with the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Director General. The State Party reports that it proposes to work with the University of Aksum to prepare this request.

c) Implementation of the site management road map and necessary protective measures:

The State Party reported that the Management Plan is yet to be done. The Mission considered that although the central, regional and local authorities have consultative and participatory working methods, management decisions are taken ad-hoc and the need for a site management plan is pressing. They noted that UNESCO had undertaken a workshop for the management of Aksum, which had produced a useful starting point for the process. One of the reasons to explain the delay in the preparation of the Management Plan appeared to be the lack of funding and expertise. The Mission suggested that an International Assistance request could be made to support the elaboration of a Management Plan.

The mission noted the State Party’s decision to open an adequately staffed office of the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) at the property - ARCCH being the statutory body established in terms of the Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage Proclamation No 209/2000 to manage national sites including World Heritage properties. The mission considered that there was an urgent need to fill the staff vacancies in the critical fields of Conservation, Heritage Management, and Archaeology.

d) Legislative and planning protection:

The Mission considered that most urgently protective laws and regulations are needed, as currently the only protective framework for the property is the amended Antiquities Law. The mission was told that a Master Plan is currently being prepared. The Mission considered that there was an urgent need for urban planning regulations to protect heritage and to ensure that urban processes are controlled to avoid future planned constructions in the property such as the Church Museum and urban encroachment at the Gudit Stelae Park, as well as to ensure that constructions such as the Site Museum built in the Stelae Park in 2005 will not be repeated. It was suggested that advice might be needed to ensure that such controls might reflect international best practices and experience on heritage management in living cities.

The State Party reported that a draft proclamation for protection of the site has been prepared and presented to Parliament for adoption, but no further details are provided.

e) Retrospective draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

The State Party reports that at the capacity building workshop referred to above a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including conditions of integrity and authenticity was developed by the participants but notes that the State Party would need technical assistance to finalize its drafting.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS commend the State Party for the great achievement in reinstating Stele 2 between 2007 and 2009 after its return from Italy.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that the Mission has highlighted a number of issues that have to be addressed with some urgency. These relate to the need for urban planning regulations, more structured management set out based on an agreed Statement of Outstanding Universal Value and adequate professional staff, the need for research on the rising water table and water ingress, as well as for a sustainable consolidation solution for the Stele 3 foundation.

The structured management and urban planning is needed in order to:

· Halt the urban encroachment at the Gudit Stelae field;

· Maintain protection of the integrity of the archaeological remains in the living Town;

· Conduct test excavations prior to any building works;

· Restrict new construction within the buffer zone;

· Control planned construction within the World Heritage property and for major changes within the buffer zone;

· Ensure that the physical interventions of the World Bank Tourism Development project within the property do not hinder its integrity;

· Improve when possible, the site presentation through minimalist interventions.

There is an urgent need to create a management plan that will link the management of the property to the sustainable development of the wider setting of the property and which could encompass the planning, use and management of structures, archaeological remains and landscape. The mission noted the complexity and importance of dealing with the Aksum Town modern settlement built over the archaeological remains, and reported on relocation of inhabitants intended to allow excavation and opening to visitors of three main palaces that form part of the inscribed property. Such activities need to be considered in an Interpretation and Visitor Management Plan for the property, as part of the overall Management Plan.

Development of the Management Plan needs to continue the commendable participatory and consultative process used at the local level as noted by the 2010 mission, and to foster and strengthen a shared vision amongst the major stakeholders to avoid parallel and conflicting decisions.

The draft Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity and authenticity needs to be finalised and submitted to the World Heritage Centre. This is a fundamental precursor for the satisfactory development of the Management Plan.

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

N/A

Decision Adopted: 34 COM 7B.45

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.46 adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Urges the State Party to implement the recommendations of the February 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS monitoring mission;

4. Considers that the vulnerability of the property to urban encroachment and unregulated development needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency through the adoption of appropriate urban planning regulations and requests that the State Party put in place such regulations as soon as possible;

5. Reiterates its request to the State Party to finalize a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity and authenticity as previously requested and submit it for review by the Advisory Bodies and for approval by the World Heritage Committee;

6. Also considers that there is a need for more structured management arrangements at the property which need to be encapsulated in a management plan based on an agreed Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;

7. Further considers that there is an urgent need to investigate the causes of the rising water table and to develop technical solutions to address them, and also reiterates its invitation to the State Party to submit a request for International Assistance for this study;

8. Also requests the State Party to pursue its efforts in consolidating the Stele 3 foundation in a sustainable manner and suggests that the State Party considers fundraising for the implementation of the consolidation works;

9. Further reiterates its request to the State Party to provide a map of the property of sufficient scale and detail to indicate clearly the boundaries of the World Heritage property and to submit a map of the proposed buffer zone, with details of protective arrangements to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies and for approval by the World Heritage Committee;

10. Further requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre informed about changes and new construction within the property and its proposed buffer zone including the planned Church Museum, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before any commitment is made;

11. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2012, 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 36th session in 2012.