The World Heritage Committee on Thursday accepted the request of the government of Mali to place Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision aims to raise cooperation and support for the sites threatened by the armed conflict in the region.
The Committee, meeting in St Petersburg until 6 July, also asked Mali’s neighbours to do all in their power to prevent the trafficking in cultural objects from these sites. There is concern that such objects, notably important ancient manuscripts, be looted and smuggled abroad by unscrupulous dealers.
The 21 members of the World Heritage Committee urged the African Union and the international community to do all in their power to help protect Timbuktu, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage in 1988, and the Tomb of Askia, inscribed in 2004.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has repeatedly urged international cooperation to protect the two sites which bear witness to the golden age of Timbuktu in the 16th century and to a history that stretches even further back to the 5th century A.D. She has also voiced grave concern for the 17th century pyramidal Tomb of Askia.
UNESCO’s Director-General sent a mission to the country in May to envisage ways to work with the authorities on the preservation of the two sites.
The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of threats to the outstanding universal values for which a property has been inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.