At its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) the World Heritage Committee encouraged the State Parties of Senegal and Qatar to finalize an agreement to carry out a major rehabilitation work on for the coastal areas of Gorée Island which are effected by serious marine erosion. They also noted with concern the ongoing illegal occupation (both residential and commercial) of some protected parts of the island, and the lack of a site manager, appointed by the State Party, to ensure implementation of the existing regulatory measures for the conservation and protection of the property.
On 19 March 2009, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report on the property, which dealt with some of the concerns raised by the Committee.
a) Restoration and rehabilitation
The State Party report indicates that restoration work on the Palais Roume or Relais de l’Espadon and the Ancienne Maison du Sudan have not yet begun due to a lack of funds. The State Party is continuing to seek for the means to carry out this work. Two buildings, the Maison de l’Amiral and the Maison des Esclaves are both foreseen in the near future. The later, has funding already allocated, while for the first, the funding is close to being secured. Finally, the rehabilitation of the ex-Université des Mutants was completed in 2007. The State Party report indicates, however, that a number of buildings along the seafront of the island are in danger due to the ongoing marine erosion.
b) Management of the Population and Tourism
The State Party report states that there is still an ongoing problem in regard to illegal occupation of some of the protected parts of the island (in particular the Castel) including informal markets, illegal shacks, and livestock grazing. The State Party indicated that they are in the process of elaborating corrective measures to improve the situation. With a view to improve the existing measures, it is foreseen that an urgent consultation will take place in the short term between the Ministry of Culture (DPC), the Mayor of Gorée, UNESCO (Breda), the Syndicat d’ Initiatives and tourism of Gorée, the Maritime Liaison Dakar/Gorée (PAD), schools, religious authorities, the associations, community representatives, among others.
In regard to tourism management, it is reported that the Island continues to attract numerous visitors and this has consequences on the property. An increase in the tourist tax of 500 CFA has been established to improve management of the tourist infrastructure and the overall environment.
c) Appointment of a Site manager
The State Party reports continuing delays in nominating a site manager for the property. It states that this appointment will occur in the near future. It should be noted that since 1989 Gorée has been managed by a Management Committee headed by the Minister of Culture and with the participation of the Mayor of Gorée, the manager of the Memorial, the Office of Architecture and historic Monuments (BAMH) and representatives from the civil society of Gorée. Their work has contributed to the mitigation of threats at the property.
d) Results of the Advisory mission
From 14 – 20 February 2009, a Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM advisory mission went to the site as part of a reactive monitoring mission to another site in Senegal, the Island of Saint-Louis. The visit to Gorée Island took place on 15 February 2009.
The mission expressed serious concerns in regard to the maritime erosion taking place at the western part of the island. The mission found that this erosion has reached a point where it is threatening the stability of several important buildings including the Relais de l’Espadon.
The mission noted also that a Safeguarding Committee composed of representatives from the Government, the Municipality and the community has been created by Ministerial decree in 2008. In addition, the mission learned that the joint project between Senegal and Qatar for the safeguarding of the coastline, presented in the state of conservation report of 2007, has not materialized. Senegal is still committed to the project, however, and is searching for private partners.
In regard to the state of conservation of the built environment, the mission found that there has been little restoration work in the past several years. In addition, measure to improve the situation related to illegal occupation, have not yet been adopted. The mission did report, however, an improvement in the daily maintenance in the town due to the additional revenue derived from the tourist tax.
Finally, in regard to management, the mission reported the creation by Ministerial decree of a Safeguarding Committee with representatives of the national and municipal governments as well as residents. This committee will assume the decision-making tasks of the site manager until he/she is eventually appointed.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies remain extremely concerned about the ongoing erosion of the coastline which is undermining some of the architectural heritage of the property. While progress has been made with daily maintenance issues, there is a concern with the slow pace of restoration work and the development of adequate measures to resolve the problems of squatting and illegal occupation of land.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that a careful monitoring of the state of conservation of the property is needed, in particular on issues related maritime erosion threats to the property. A World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring will have to be undertaken to examine possible and ascertained or potential threats, (as defined by Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines) order to make recommendations to the World Heritage Committee.
In regard to management, the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies find that the creation of the Safeguarding Committee is a positive step, but remain concerned about the lack of a site manager to implement conservation and protection activities. Finally they note that a rigorous approach needs to be taken to address all the issues raised by the advisory monitoring mission carried out in February 2009.