As requested by the World Heritage Committee in its Decision 31 COM 7A.26, a report was submitted by the Azeri authorities dated 13 March 2008. The report presents progress in the implementation of follow-up measures to previous decisions of the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of the property, as well as the measures which the State Party took to protect the outstanding universal value of the property. Progress was noted in the following areas:
a) Management structure
In order to ensure the protection of the World Heritage property as well as to improve the management system of the property, the statutes and the structure of the Department of the State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” established under the Cabinet of Ministers were defined by the Presidential Decree 574 dated 16 May 2007.Within the framework of this decree it was intended to establish the Communal Housing and Maintenance Service, the Scientific Production and Restoration Workshop, the Museum of “Icherisheher”, and the Scientific-Cultural Centre. These organizations have been created and are fully operational. The regulations of the sections of the Department of the State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” were approved and provided with staff.
It is also planned to establish the Council of Elders consisting of residents of Icherisheher in order to inform the public and to ensure transparency in decision-making processes.
b) Protection and conservation activities
As a result, the area was put under the full control of the Department. All illegal constructions in Icherisheher were halted by 1 January 2007 and new examination of constructions are conducted. Provisions of the “Integrated Area Management Action Plan” are specified and combined with the plan of urgent measures for 2007 and the following years. Construction standards and regulations were established according to the “Integrated Area Management Action Plan” for rehabilitation, restoration and use of each site.
The buildings and sites situated in the area of Icherisheher are partly the property of some governmental bodies which influence negatively on the conservation and inviolability of the sites. By the Presidential Decree of 31 January 2008, some of these sites were transferred to the Department. The Communal Housing Service was created according to the order of 11 June 2007 by the Department with the purpose of repairing, constructing, sanitary cleaning and planting of greenery and providing housing-communal services in the area of Icherisheher. The Scientific-Production Restoration Workshop was created according to the order of 20 August 2007 by the Department with the purpose of ensuring restoration, and rehabilitationworks in the Reserve. The Department set up a special Commission responsible for examining construction projects.
In addition work was undertaken to improve the overall integrity of the area, the restoration and rehabilitation of the monuments and development of the territory, including removal of illegal buildings, rehabilitation of historic roads and repair works in 33 residential buildings. The establishment of an electronic information database based on the results of the inventory of sites and monuments in Icherisheher is continuing.
According to the project prepared for the “Integrated Area Management Action Plan”, it is foreseen to complete the rehabilitation and restoration of the sites and the surrounding areas during the year 2008, with financial support from the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the State Investment Programme, as well as the 2008 Department’s budget and sponsor contributions. In addition, the Department plans define the detailed lists and contents of the measures for social-economic development of Icherisheher.
c) “Integrated Area Management Action Plan”
On 27 September 2007, the “Integrated Area Management Action Plan” of the State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher”, elaborated by the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the World Bank has been presented to stakeholders.
In accordance with this “Integrated Area Management Action Plan” the following three actions were identified by the Presidential orders and decrees concerning the conservation of property:
- Halt all illegal constructions in Icherisheher;
- Restore Icherisheher;
- Improve the presentation of Icherisheher as an international tourism site meeting modern requirements.l>
While the State Party report provides detailed information, it does not however address the issues concerning the management responsibility for the buffer zone, the coordination between the Department, national institutions and local authorities (Baku Municipality) working on the Walled City and its buffer zone. The World Heritage Centre recalls that the current buffer zone covers a relatively narrow area around the World Heritage core zone, and that the possibility of extending the buffer zone should be given careful consideration, in order to integrate the 19th and early 20th centuries urban areas.
The State Party report does not mention if the “Integrated Area Management Action Plan” of the Reserve “Icherisheher” was adopted by the State Party with adequate financial support for its implementation.
d) Icherisheher conservation master plan:
An international expert group was created in order to assist in preparing the master plan for the conservation of Icherisheher, and a first expert mission came to the Walled City on 23 June 2007. Subsequently, the Department prepared a draft conservation master plan. It is however not clear how the master plan relates to the “Integrated Area Management Plan”.
e) Awareness raising activities
The Department of the State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” co-organized the International Scientific-Practical Conference “XXI Century and Historical Islamic cities” held from 19 to 21 November 2007 in Baku. On 18 December 2007, it also held a symposium on samples of ancient cultural artefacts of Baku discovered in Icherisheher. Special publications on “Icherisheher” in three languages and an “Icherisheher” magazine were produced. World Heritage signage and information boards were installed in the area and an information database was created for the web portal of “Icherisheher”.
It is to be noted that the draft Statement of outstanding universal value including the conditions of integrity and authenticity of the property was not provided by the State Party for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session in 2008, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007).
Furthermore, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS have received reports indicating that numerous demolition, restoration, rehabilitation and rebuilding works are being carried out within the boundary of the World Heritage property without adequate planning and conservation procedures. It is therefore urgent to design, in consultation with the Advisory Bodies, guidelines for the rehabilitation and restoration of historic buildings, including rehabilitation methodologies, as well as the design of new constructions and street furniture.