Five years of Conflict - The State of Cultural Heritage in the Ancient City of Aleppo
The first comprehensive account of the devastation wrought on the World Heritage site of the Ancient City of Aleppo during years of armed conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic has just been published by UNESCO and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
The 143-page book, Five Years of Conflict: The State of Cultural Heritage in the Ancient City of Aleppo, shows that more than 10 percent of the historic buildings of Aleppo have been destroyed and more than half the buildings assessed showed severe to moderate damage. It provides assessments of 518 properties, including the Citadel and the city’s Great Mosque (Omayyad Mosque), some of the most celebrated edifices in the city whose origins go back to the 2nd millennium BCE.
The publication, available online in English, was produced in partnership with UK-based organization Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa (EAMENA). It provides a solid technical basis for the planning of restoration and rehabilitation of the city.
Using satellite images and applying scientific methodology, UNESCO’s cultural heritage experts worked closely with imagery analysts from UNITAR-UNOSAT, as well as historians, architects and archaeologists, in assessing damage to the city. Remote assessment via satellite imagery, allowed them to monitoring otherwise inaccessible areas for the first time.
“Culture and cultural heritage are powerful catalysts in overcoming the challenges of recovery and reconciliation for cities devastated by armed conflict,” said UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone R. “Inclusive dialogue, respect for cultural diversity and a sense of community ownership, helps cities recover from the trauma of war and secure a lasting peace.”
The Ancient City of Aleppo is one of six Syrian World Heritage sites that were added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger in 2013. UNESCO continues to lead international efforts to protect and restore cultural heritage. In this context, a second publication assessing the state of all Syrian properties on the World Heritage list as well on the country’s Tentative List, will be released in 2019.
“Five Years of Conflict: The State of Cultural Heritage in the Ancient City of Aleppo” has been published thanks to funding by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and UNESCO’s Heritage Emergency Fund. Arabic and French editions of the book will be available early next year.
Decisions / Resolutions (2)
Note: the following reports on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic need to be read in conjunction with Item 36.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7A.Add,
- Recalling Decisions 41 COM 7A.44 and 41 COM 7A.50, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Taking into account Decision 42 COM 7A.36 on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic,
- Expresses its great concern at the impact of the armed conflict and resulting humanitarian crisis and irreversible destruction within the property, including of whole neighborhoods;
- Recalls its request that humanitarian and security actions be done in coordination with cultural heritage stakeholders, to avoid further irreversible damages to the property, and allow for undertaking of first aid measures on its cultural heritage;
- Reiterates its deep concern about the instability of buildings within the property and urges the State Party to undertake a detailed risk assessment and emergency consolidation works for the concerned structures in order to guarantee the safety of the inhabitants;
- Notes the efforts mobilized by the State Party for the recovery of Aleppo since December 2016 and encourages it to continue its efforts in documenting and assessing damages and carrying out emergency interventions, despite the extremely difficult situation;
- Also encourages the State Party to implement the actions agreed upon at the technical coordination meeting organized by UNESCO in March 2017, and to allow sufficient time for the development of integrated strategic plans for the rehabilitation and revitalization of the property in its broader urban context, in line with the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (UNESCO, 2011) and in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
- Calls on all UNESCO Member States to support emergency safeguarding measures, including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund;
- Requests that the invited joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission be carried to proceed to a comprehensive assessment of the state of conservation of the property and identify measures needed to reverse the decay and ensure the conservation and protection of the property, as soon as the security situation allows;
- Further encourages the State Party to finalize the minor boundary modification proposal for the property and to submit it to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2019, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2019, 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 43rd session in 2019;
- Decides to retain the Ancient City of Aleppo (Syrian Arab Republic) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7A.Add,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 7A.50, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Deplores the conflict situation prevailing in the country, the loss of human life and the degradation of humanitarian conditions;
- Taking note of the reports provided by the State Party regarding the state of conservation of the six Syrian World Heritage properties and of the sites inscribed on the Syrian Tentative List, commends the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and all the heritage professionals and the local communities in Syria who are working on monitoring and protecting cultural heritage for their sustained efforts amidst extremely difficult conditions, but expresses its utmost concern at the damage occurred and the threats facing these properties and cultural heritage in general;
- Urges all parties associated with the situation in Syria to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to cultural heritage of the country and to fulfil their obligations under international law, and in particular the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 of March 2017, by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, including the halting of all damages that result from targeting World Heritage properties, sites included in the Tentative List and other cultural heritage sites;
- Also urges the State Party to adopt measures for the evacuation of World Heritage properties being used for military purposes;
- Further urges the State Party and the international community to include recovery actions within the properties to the overall humanitarian, security and peace building response;
- Urges furthermore the State Party to safeguard damaged properties through minimal first aid interventions to prevent theft, further collapse and natural degradation, and to refrain from undertaking conservation and restoration work until the situation allows, for the development of comprehensive conservation strategies and actions that respond to international standards in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
- Launches an appeal to all Member States of UNESCO to cooperate in fighting against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage coming from Syria as per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199 of February 2015, and in engaging in the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflict as per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 of March 2017, and reiterates its suggestion to the State Party to consider ratifying the Second Protocol (1999) of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage during times of Armed Conflict;
- Requests the State Party to pursue the systematic documentation of all damage incurred by the World Heritage properties, whenever conditions allow, and to implement all possible risk mitigation measures, to inform on the development of the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and the identification of corrective measures for all six properties;
- Calls upon the international community to further support the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage through earmarked funds or through contribution to the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund;
- Also calls upon the international and national cultural heritage professionals to unite for the safeguarding of Syria’s cultural heritage, and pursue their ongoing initiatives in coordination with UNESCO;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the properties and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.