As requested by the World Heritage Committee (Decision 31 COM 7B.44), the State Party invited a joint UNESCO/IUCN/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission in July 2007 to witness the Gavarnie Festival and discuss further the threats to the property. The joint reactive monitoring mission (full report available at http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2008) aimed to address the issues that have been discussed since the inscription to enable efforts to focus on the conservation of values and comprehensive transboundary management of the property. The mission identified a variety of threats to the integrity of the property relating to the efficacy of management, and to specific issues relating to the relocation of the Gavarnie Festival, and access, roads and parking at Col de Boucharo the Troumouse cirque road. In February 2008, the State Party of France submitted a progress report covering the following 9 areas: Gavarnie Festival, management plan, creation of a management structure, status of the property (cultural and natural landscape), the Troumouse road, buffer zones, pastoral activities, response to recommendations and conclusions of the mission, and the status of transboundary cooperation. The report responded to several key recommendations of the 2007 mission.
a) Gavarnie Festival
The issues surrounding the Gavarnie Festival, roads, access and parking have been ongoing since the time of the evaluation of the property in 1997. At the time of inscription the State Party of France indicated that the Festival would be removed from the property based on the recommendations of the IUCN field evaluation, which considered that it was inconsistent with the outstanding universal value of the property. However, the Gavarnie Festival continues to take place on the property despite repeated discussions during missions (1997, 1999, and 2007) and previous World Heritage Committee’s decisions requesting the removal of the Festival (2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007).
The mission report makes clear that the Cirque de Gavarnie is at the heart of the World Heritage property and an iconic feature within the inscribed site. The location of the Festival within the property is therefore clearly incompatible with the basis of the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, and this point is also acknowledged in the last periodic report submission by the State Party which describes it as “unacceptable desecration” and a “real provocation against the cultural landscape of the property”. Whilst the impacts are temporary, they are nevertheless entirely avoidable through the relocation of the Festival. The State Party has indicated a number of potential measures that could be taken to reduce the impacts of the Festival, but these stop short of relocation and therefore do not address the central concern regarding the outstanding universal value of the property.
The continuation of the Gavarnie Festival in the heart of the property therefore represents an ascertained danger to the property as defined in Paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines, and also conforms to the requirements of Paragraph 181. They therefore meet the requirements for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Were the World Heritage Committee so minded the situation is also such that the application of Paragraph 192b of the Operational Guidelines should be considered, as the threat to the property at the time of inscription was known and the State Party has not taken action on the timescale understood at the time.
There has also been progress in relation to the improvement of the management of the property, but further work is required. The States Parties of France and Spain do not currently have a common vision for the management of the property (5-10 years). This should be defined based on a common Statement of outstanding universal value, setting out the values of the property related to its inscription as a cultural landscape shaped by pastoralism and as a natural site for its geology and natural beauty; in relation to the relevant criteria, the conditions of authenticity and integrity, and the management requirements. There remains a need to establish a defined management structure for the French side of the property and integrate this within the management structures of the Pyrenees National Park; and to establish an appropriate level of coordination of management with the State Party of Spain. These arrangements should consider mechanisms for regular exchange and harmonisation of transboundary activities with a priority on the facilitation of transboundary grazing and a joint action plan involving stakeholders in both France and Spain (national parks, communes, mixed syndicates, Comarca etc.) in order to set management priorities for the next 2-3 years, to sustain and support the increasingly fragile farming systems. Although the World Heritage Committee’s focus has been on the Gavarnie Festival in the past, the threats to the farming and pastoralism systems could prove to have a much more significant impact on the outstanding universal value of the property. The property would benefit from integrated and coordinated planning, implementation and monitoring; which would lead to joint reporting. It is suggested that the States Parties of France and Spain might also consider a joint corporate identity for the transboundary property, in order to promote the values for which the property was inscribed, as these are hardly acknowledged by many visitors.
c) Roads and parking
The State Party has made progress on road closures and on the issue of parking, with some actions underway, remaining to be completed. The road to Boucharo has been closed and the commune of Gèdre has agreed to close the last section of the Troumouse. The road at Coles de Tentes should be closed completely in summer and the cable car used as an alternative. The parking should also be reduced.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that it is regrettable that the State Party of France has not fulfilled all its commitments to address integrity and management issues within the property. In order to ensure the long-term conservation of its outstanding universal value and especially the property’s conditions of integrity, it is essential that the States Parties improve their collaboration and that the State Party of France honours its commitments to implement the recommendations of the 2007 monitoring mission and past World Heritage Committee’s decisions, including the relocation of the Gavarnie Festival. It is also considered that it is essential that the Gavarnie Festival is refocused to reinforce the values of the property and restructured to benefit the local community.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies suggest a workshop is held to address these issues and would be willing to work with the States Parties on the preparation of the Statement of outstanding universal value, the development of a coordinated management system, harmonised management plans and supporting a participatory process in highlighting ways to sustain transboundary pastoralism. This might open a dialogue on possible alternative location for the Gavarnie Festival and on how it might support the agricultural economy.