Developing a participatory approach to World Heritage management in Mtskheta (Georgia)
National and local stakeholders are brought together in the Georgian World Heritage Protection Council. The Council reviews all proposals within the World Heritage properties and buffer zones and ensures adequate planning, management and collaborative decision making.
About the city of Mtskheta
Mtskheta is one of oldest cities of Georgia, located approximately 20 kilometres north of the capital, Tbilisi, at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers. Mtskheta was the ancient capital of Kartli, the East Georgian Kingdom from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD, and the location where Christianity was proclaimed as the official religion of Georgia in 337. To date, it still remains the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.
The Historical Monuments of Mtskheta were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994 under criteria (iii) and (iv). The historic churches of Mtskheta, including the Holy Cross Monastery of Jvari, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Samtavro Monastery, are outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus. They show the high artistic and cultural level attained by the ancient kingdom of East Georgia, representing the development of the building typology from the 4th to the 18th centuries.
The site of the Historical Monuments of Mtskheta was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009, due to serious concerns about the privatisation of land situated in the vicinity of the World Heritage property, the lack of an integrated management plan and the loss of authenticity of some components due to restoration works conducted using unacceptable methods (Decision 33 COM 7B.102 ). The property was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2016, after important work and commitments by the State Party. Actions taken include the proclamation of the Decree on the Moratorium on Urban Development and Land Privatisation, establishment of a unified buffer zone, encompassing the landscape surrounding the components; and working on an Urban Land-Use Master Plan with the property’s Outstanding Universal Value in its core, amongst others (Decision 40 COM 7A.29).
The State of Conservation Reports presented to the World Heritage Committee between 2017 and 2021 indicate that, although there has been considerable progress, a number of challenges remain. The preservation of the historic fabric of the city and the natural landscape surrounding it has been a concern for the World Heritage Committee and the Advisory Bodies for nearly two decades. Consequently, the World Heritage Committee, in its 44th session, encouraged the State Party of Georgia to finalise the planning and legal instruments, including the Mtskheta Urban Land-Use Master Plan. The Committee requested Heritage Impact Assessments for developments within the property and its buffer zone, as well as an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of previous Committee decisions, to be examined during its 46th session (Decision: 44 COM 7B.48).
Developing a participatory approach to World Heritage management in Mtskheta (Georgia)
In response to previous World Heritage Committee’s decisions, the national and local authorities involved in the management of the Historical Monuments of Mtskheta have worked to develop a sustainable management framework for the property. This process has included the definition of World Heritage property boundaries and buffer zones, drafting building and planning guidelines, and developing a management plan and urban planning tools, amongst others.
The development of the management framework needed to take into consideration a large number of stakeholders, such as national authorities, the local residents represented by the Municipality of Mtskheta, the Patriarchate of Georgia, and business and tourism developers. Each of these stakeholders had a different understanding of the property and different priorities: for instance, local residents were most concerned about local livelihoods and quality of life, while the Patriarchate sought to preserve and continue the role of Mtskheta as the spiritual centre for Christianity in Georgia. At the same time, business and tourism developers wanted to promote economic development, while cultural heritage authorities aimed to preserve the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.
Due to the complex management of the site and the large number of stakeholders present, it was necessary to create a forum for all stakeholders to meet and reach a consensus on key decisions regarding the World Heritage property. In 2016, at its 40th session, the World Heritage Committee recommended the State Party of Georgia to pursue a stakeholder involvement strategy and methodology, and address governance issues at the local level in order to ensure adequate planning, efficient management and decision making (Decision 40 COM 7A.29).
Additionally, the joint UNESCO World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS / ICCROM Reactive Monitoring Mission, undertaken in February 2018, highlighted the importance of a coordinated inter-ministerial and institutional decision-making process and continuous dialog and transparency between all stakeholders. At the same time, the Mission identified the need to reinforce the role of the municipality in training and capacity building programmes and in raising awareness about World Heritage values amongst local authorities, residents and stakeholders.
It recommended the establishment of a Steering Committee that would review all project proposals within the property and buffer zone, in order to ensure that “no project, independently of its contents and potential positive or negative impacts, could be realised without the active support of all relevant stakeholders, including the Local Authorities, and without the approval of a Heritage Impact Assessment”.
In response to the Reactive Monitoring Mission recommendation and previous Committee decisions, a participatory approach to World Heritage management was developed by Georgian national authorities, working in collaboration with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies. Since 2020, following the Governmental Decree # 976, dated 31 December 2019 on the extension of the Moratorium, and the order #02/15 (02/03/2019) of the Director-General of the National Agency of Cultural Heritage Protection of Georgia, the Georgian World Heritage Monuments Protection Council brings together representatives from:
- National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia (NAPRG)
- Patriarchates of Georgia
- Georgian Ministry of infrastructure and regional development
- Georgian Ministry of education, science, culture and sport
- Professional institutions (ICOMOS, Centre for Cultural Heritage Studies, and more)
- Independent field experts
The Georgian World Heritage Protection Council reviews all projects within the World Heritage properties and buffer zones, implementing World Heritage Committee decisions, as well as national and local laws. All prospective projects within the World Heritage property and buffer zone are submitted to the relevant Municipality. If the Municipality approves them, they are sent to the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia, who acts as a secretariat for the Georgian World Heritage Protection Council. The proposal is then reviewed by the Council; if it is approved, it will be sent to the World Heritage Centre for revision by the Advisory Bodies.
The Council was launched in April, in spite of the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April and December 2020, 93 projects were submitted to the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia. 28 projects were approved, 15 were rejected, and 50 were referred back to the Municipality for additional documentation.
The number of referred proposals evidenced a lack of technical capacities at local level. Consequently, the Georgian World Heritage Monuments Protection
Council arranged consultation meetings and workshops, mainly with local staff at the Mtskheta Municipality, in order to improve the quality of submissions to the National Agency. The workshops have been part of a constructive collaboration with local authorities, which aims to build a sustainable management system that preserves the property’s Outstanding Universal Value while promoting sustainable local development and quality of life for local citizens.
The formation of Georgian World Heritage Monuments Protection Council was included in the State of Conservation Report that was reviewed by the World Heritage Committee in its 44th session (2021). Upon its review, the Committee acknowledged the considerable progress made by Georgia to implement the Committee’s recommendations, while encouraging Georgia to finalise the working documents and implement the recommendations of the 2018 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission (Decision: 44 COM 7B.48).
Source: Ms Manana Vardzelashvili, National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia, 2020-2021, World Heritage Committee Decisions’ reports, 2001-2021.
Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape
The project aims to contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by:
- Protecting the wider urban and landscape heritage values, going beyond a focus on monuments only
- Developing a collaborative decision-making process that brings together a diverse number of stakeholders
Historic Urban Landscape Tools
Contribution towards Sustainable Development
If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
- Target 11.3: the initiative aims to enhance inclusive and sustainable urban development, and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management.
- Target 11.4: the initiative aims to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.
Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.
To learn more
- Watch the presentation by Ms Manana Vardzelashvili during the International Conference “World Heritage Sites: Sustainable Development Practices for Urban Heritage”, which took place on 10 December 2020 on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the inscription of “Kyiv: Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Related Monastic Buildings, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra” on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
- Visit www.heritagesites.ge
Image creditsCover image: Historical Monuments of Mtskheta / Amos Chapple © OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection
Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.
Decisions / Resolutions (3)
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.24, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
- Acknowledges the considerable progress made by the State Party to implement the Committee’s recommendations;
- Welcomes the development of the Mtskheta City Master Plan Concept database that encompasses all the buildings and plots of the town and the surroundings in 3D representations, complemented by basic data, a key tool in subsequent phases of the Master Plan, as well as for future monitoring of its implementation and strongly suggests the timely completion of the Mtskheta City Master Plan;
- Encourages the State Party to continue on-going work on the development of the “Management Documentation for Spatial Territorial Development of Mtskheta”, including Mtskheta Urban Land Use Master Plan (ULUMP), and to submit drafts of the main components of this plan to the World Heritage Centre for review by ICOMOS International by at the latest 1 February 2022;
- Also acknowledges the State Party’s decision to maintain the “Enactment of Special Regime of Regulation of Urban Development and Land Privatization in the Cultural Heritage Protection Zones of Mtskheta Municipality” (the Moratorium) until the “Management Documentation for Spatial Territorial Development of Mtskheta” has been adopted, and control and monitoring is fully in place; and also welcomes the decision by the State Party to extend the Moratorium until further notice, or until all the necessary systems and approvals are in place;
- Supports the on-going 2019-2020 Advisory assistance and endorses the recommendations of the 2018 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission and invites the State Party to implement these recommendations that relate to:
- The development of the ULUMP,
- The need to address existing urgent conservation issues that if left unresolved could have a negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property,
- The need for the development of a long-term vision for the historic urban landscape of Mtskheta, to guide the management of change resulting from increased commercial tourism with an approach that integrates cultural heritage with sustainable development;
- Requests the State Party to continue submitting, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, detailed information on any proposed development projects within the property, its buffer zone and setting, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies prior to any decisions being taken that could be difficult to reverse;
- Reiterates its request to the State Party to undertake a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for developments within the property and its buffer zone as a timely and appropriate method of assessing the multiple and cumulative impacts of current and planned developments, taking into account potential impacts on the OUV of the property, in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage properties, prior to allowing any developments to take place and prior to the finalization and implementation of the ULUMP;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, 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 46th session.
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7A,
- Recalling Decision 39 COM 7A.41, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
- Welcomes the important work and commitment by the State Party to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) forms the core of the development of the Urban Land-Use Master Plan (ULUMP);
- Notes the measures taken by the authorities to guarantee protection to the property through the Decree on the Moratorium on Urban Development and Land Privatization as well as a revised ULUMP which has yet to be finalized and implemented in accordance with World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS recommendations;
- Decides to remove the Historical Monuments of Mtskheta (Georgia) from the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Recommends that the State Party take into consideration the recommendations provided by the 2015 and 2016 World Heritage Centre technical assistance missions, and by ICOMOS, notably to:
- Strengthen the strategic spatial planning vision and ensure that the urban dimension of the property be fully reflected in the policies, measures and tools adopted to ensure the conservation of the latter, using if necessary the approach carried by the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2011),
- Address the governance issue at the local level in order to ensure adequate planning, efficient management and decision making,
- Pursue a stakeholder involvement strategy and methodology, together with communication tools,
- Review the administrative borders especially in relation to the Jvari site,
in order to finalize and implement the ULUMP including supportive land use regulations, and a management plan, and also continue to ensure the long term conservation of monuments and archaeological sites through the development of adequate plans and restoration programmes;
- Welcomes the establishment of a unified buffer zone, encompassing the landscape surrounding the components, including in particular the panorama along the rivers and the mountain setting and requests the State Party to provide this enlarged buffer zone with appropriate protection, and to submit a minor boundary modification proposal of the unified buffer zone of the property to the World Heritage Centre;
- Also welcomes the initiative of the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B,
2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.90, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),
3. Expresses its serious concern about the state of conservation of the different components of the property;
4. Regrets that the State Party report did not adequately address the preparation of legal and technical provisions to address the various threats, the aspect of land privatization, the development of an integrated management plan and the development of a special programme on the protection of all archaeological components;
5. Further regrets that the State Party did not submit documents clarifying the exact boundaries of the protected area of the property and its buffer zone;
6. Notes with regrets that some components have lost their authenticity due to restoration works conducted with unacceptable methods;
7. Decides to inscribe the Historic Monuments of Mtskheta (Georgia) on the List of the World Heritage in Danger;
8. Urges the State Party to develop, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value a proposed desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of the World Heritage in Danger, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;
9. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS mission to the property in early 2010 to assess the state of conservation of the property;
10. Also requests to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendation contained in Decision 32 COM 7B.90, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.Read more about the decision