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2. Policies Regarding CREDIBILITY of the World Heritage List
2.2. Outstanding Universal Value
2.2.5. Protection and management Management systems
2.7. Types of World Heritage properties
2.7.3. Serial properties

Case Law - Individual component management


Synthesis based on relevant Committee decisions

Synthesis based on relevant Committee decisions

The World Heritage Committee requests to ensure the management of a serial property as a unified whole, with an effective and explicit operational coordination between management plans existing for individual component parts of the site and the overall management plan for the property (based on case law on decisions on Nomination).
Date year: 2021 2019 2016
Associated terms: Éléments individuels constitutifs Individual component Management System Élément constitutif individuel Individual component
See for examples Decisions (4)
Code: 44 COM 8B.15

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/21/44.COM/8B and WHC/21/44.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China, China, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion (iv);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    Located on the southeast coast of China, the serial property Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song–Yuan China reflects in an exceptional manner the spatial structure that combined production, transportation and marketing and the key institutional, social and cultural factors that contributed to the spectacular rise and prosperity of Quanzhou as a maritime hub of the East and South-east Asia trade network during the 10th – 14th centuries AD. The Song-Yuan Quanzhou emporium system was centred and powered by the city located at the junction of river and sea, with oceans to the south-east that connected it with the world, with mountains to the far north-west that provided for production, and with a water-land transportation network that joined them all together.

    The component parts and contributing elements of the property include sites of administrative buildings and structures, religious buildings and statues, cultural memorial sites and monuments, production sites of ceramics and iron, as well as a transportation network formed of bridges, docks and pagodas that guided the voyagers. They comprehensively reflect the distinguishing maritime territorial, socio-cultural and trade structures of Song-Yuan Quanzhou.

    Criterion (iv): Quanzhou, Emporium of the World in Song–Yuan China outstandingly illustrates, through its component parts, the territorial integrated structure and the key institutional, transportation, production, marketing and socio-cultural factors that turned it into a global-level emporium and key commercial hub during a highly prosperous stage of Asia's maritime trade in the 10th - 14th centuries AD. The property demonstrates Quanzhou’s great contributions to the economic and cultural development of East and South-east Asia.


    The serial property includes the necessary components and attributes that reflect Quanzhou as a premier maritime emporium of the world of the 10th - 14th centuries AD. The component parts and contributing elements maintain close functional, social, cultural and spatial links with each other, altogether illustrating the integrated territorial system and key facets and factors of Quanzhou's maritime trade system in the Song and Yuan periods. The immediate setting of the property, important views and other supporting areas or attributes, are all included in the buffer zone; areas sensitive to visual impacts and background environments demonstrating overall association with the serial property are all contained in demarcated wider setting areas and placed under effective protection. Urban development pressures, impacts from climate change, natural threats, and tourism pressures appear under effective control, through a set of protective and management measures.


    The series as a whole, comprised of its component parts and contributing elements, credibly conveys the overall territorial layout, functions of the historical trade system, historical social structure, and historical chronological information of Quanzhou as a global maritime emporium in the Song and Yuan periods. Surviving original locations; information of historical functions that can be clearly recognized and understood; historical information of forms, materials, processes and traditional maintenance mechanisms and technical systems reflected in physical remains and their historical records, as well as surviving beliefs and cultural traditions that these monuments and sites carry; all testify to a high degree of authenticity and credibility of the component parts. The physical evidence can be confirmed by a wealth of historical documentation and Chinese and international research results.

    Protection and management requirements

    All the component parts of the serial property of Quanzhou are subject to the protection of relevant laws and regulations at the national and provincial level (Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics and its Implementation Regulations and the Regulations of Fujian Province on the Protection and Management of Cultural Property). They are all owned by the state and granted with often multiple protective designations as per laws and regulations governing Famous Historical and Cultural Cities, religious affairs, marine affairs, and Scenic Areas. Traditional maintenance and conservation mechanisms also play an active role in this regard. For protection and management effectiveness, the buffer zone and the wider setting have been incorporated into the property's protection and management system and are covered by the Management Plan for the Serial Property of Quanzhou, prepared and implemented, and the Rules of Fujian Province for the Protection and Management of Historic Monuments and Sites of Ancient Quanzhou (Zayton), as revised.

    The property's management system is designed following China's administrative mechanism for cultural heritage and incorporated into the four-level administrative framework at national, provincial, city/county, and property levels. It is based on the principles of responsibilities designated at different levels, localized administration, and active community participation. A coordinated management system at the municipal level integrates management measures and implementation plans for each component part. A management working group meets quarterly and guarantees overall coordination. Management entities provide sufficient financial, human and technical guarantees and enable continuous and proper conservation of the authenticity and integrity of the serial property as a whole and each of its component parts. A long-term protection and management strategy, indicating specific requirements, has been prepared for the series and its progressive implementation is crucial for the overall management effectiveness.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Providing the real extent of the component parts areas, as some of the provided surfaces are related to a contributing element only, and not to the whole surface of the component forming the series,
    2. Further developing the analysis of the attributes expressing the Outstanding Universal Value of the property for management purposes,
    3. Strengthening and making more explicit from an operational point of view the links between the overall management plan for the property and the other plans existing for individual component parts or other designations,
    4. Further developing the archaeological research programme and implementing it,
    5. Closely monitoring visitor pressures and implementing redressing measures where necessary,
    6. Implementing steadily the Long-Term Protection and Management Strategy;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations and on the Long-Term Protection and Management Strategy for review by ICOMOS.

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Code: 44 COM 8B.25

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/21/44.COM/8B and WHC/21/44.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes the Colonies of Benevolence, Belgium and the Netherlands, on the World Heritage List as a cultural landscape on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The Colonies of Benevolence were an Enlightenment experiment in social reform which demonstrated an innovative, highly influential model of pauper relief and of settler colonialism – the agricultural domestic colony. Beginning in 1818, the Society of Benevolence founded agricultural colonies in rural areas of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (now the Netherlands and Belgium). The Colonies of Benevolence created a highly functional landscape out of isolated peat and heath wastelands through the domestic colonisation of paupers. In the process, colonists would become morally reformed ideal citizens, adding to the nation’s wealth and integrating marginal territories in emergent nation states.

    Over a seven-year period, almost 80 square kilometres of wastelands, domestic territory considered unfit for settlement, were reclaimed in Colonies. The colonies featured orthogonal roads, ribbons of houses and small farms, and communal buildings. From 1819 onwards, ‘unfree’ colonies were also founded, the last in 1825; these featured large institutions and larger farms again set in an orthogonal pattern of fields and avenues, and housed particular groups of disadvantaged people with support from the State. At their peak some 18,000 people lived in the colonies, including those within the property.

    The process of transforming its poorest landscapes and citizens through a utopian process of social engineering went on until well into the 20th century. After 1918, the colonies lost their relevance and evolved into ‘normal’ villages and areas with institutions for custodial care.

    The property comprises four former colonies in three component parts: the free colonies of Frederiksoord and Wilhelminaoord, the colony of Wortel which was a free colony that evolved into an unfree colony, and the unfree colony of Veenhuizen.

    Criterion (ii): The Colonies of Benevolence bear testimony to an exceptional and nationwide Enlightenment experiment in social reform, through a system of large agricultural home colonies. They proposed a model of social engineering based upon the notion of ‘productive labour’, with the aim of transforming poor people into ‘industrious’ citizens and uncultivated ‘wastelands’ into productive land. In addition to work, education and moral upliftment were considered essential contributions to the aim of transforming poor people into self-reliant citizens.

    The Colonies of Benevolence were developed as systematic self-sustaining agricultural settlements with state-of-the-art social facilities. As such, the Colonies of Benevolence pioneered the domestic colony model, attracting considerable international attention. For more than a century, they exerted an influence on various types of custodial care in Western Europe and beyond.

    Criterion (iv): The Colonies of Benevolence are an outstanding example of domestic agricultural colonies created in the 19th century with the social aim of poverty alleviation. Deliberately cultivated as ‘islands’ in remote domestic heath and peatland areas, the Colonies implemented the ideas of a panoptic institution for the poor in their functional and spatial organisation.

    They are an outstanding example of a landscape design that represents an agricultural home colony with a social aim. The landscape patterns reflect the original character of the different types of Colonies and their subsequent evolution, and illustrate the extent, the ambition and the evolution of this social experiment in its flourishing period (1818-1918).


    The property contains all the attributes which convey the Outstanding Universal Value. It includes key examples of both free and unfree colonies. All component parts consist of a combination of relict landscape layers which together illustrate the flourishing period of the Colony model. In the case of the free colonies, attributes include the long ribbons of houses and small farms set in a pattern of orthogonal roads and fields. The unfree colonies include larger building complexes, housing, and larger farms set in an orthogonally organised landscape of avenues and fields. Features of the landscapes include their orthogonal structure with roads, avenue plantings, other plantings, meadows, fields and forests, and with the characteristic houses, farms, institutions, churches, schools and industrial buildings.

    While there have been changes and evolution over time, the property reflects the best-preserved cultural landscapes of the free and unfree colonies.


    The authenticity of the property is based on its location, form and design, and materials. The distinctive cultural landscape with its structured form, plantings, surviving buildings and archaeological sites from the period when the colonies were created and flourished, truthfully and credibly tell the story of the Colonies of Benevolence and reflect the Outstanding Universal Value.

    The use of the Colonies for agriculture and the social objectives formulated by the Society of Benevolence over two centuries were mainly continued and supplemented with new functions, which redefined the original social significance of the Colonies, in the spirit of the Colonies and adapted to changing times. The connecting factor is not one single ‘authentic’ period, but the landscape structure which has developed in two determining phases: the first phase of the creation (1818-1859), the phase of the further evolution, the phase of state institutions and privatisation (1860-1918).

    Protection and management requirements

    The property is protected by various and very different tools that range in scale from national laws to municipal codes, covering both natural and cultural values. These provide sectorial guidelines or criteria for intervention and conservation of the property.

    Legal protection is adequate for individual buildings. In both countries, representative buildings have been granted monument status and are protected. This includes a number of buildings and building ensembles within the colonies which are protected as individual monuments.

    At the national level, all the Dutch colonies are fully or partially protected as villagescapes. In Belgium, Wortel is a protected cultural heritage landscape. Consideration should be given to ensuring the national villagescape protection should cover the full extent of Wilheminaoord.

    In the Netherlands, a new Environment & Planning Act will enter into force in 2021 to regulate the protection of heritage values, replacing the existing Spatial Planning Act. The new Act provides opportunities for the integral protection of Outstanding Universal Value, and for the assessment of new developments.

    The organisation of the management system for the property seems effective. This includes an intergovernmental committee to address issues between the States Parties, a transnational steering group, the designation of site holders in each country, a technical advisory committee, site managers and staff.

    There is a management plan consisting of a main document related to the whole property, as well as three specific plans for the component parts. The focus of the management plan is the preservation and reinforcement of the Outstanding Universal Value for the series as a whole and for the individual colonies. Risk preparedness is addressed through existing mechanisms rather than a specific strategy.

    Visitor management is achieved through a range of measures including visitor centres, interpretive materials and support facilities, and further measures are planned. Traffic management is recognised as an issue.

    Local communities and residents are closely involved in the management of the property through formal and other means.

    An ongoing challenge will be to manage the property as a unified whole, especially to ensure that conservation approaches evolve in the same direction.

  4. Recommends that the States Parties give consideration to the following:
    1. Establishing a buffer zone, in order to ensure the protection of the component parts from any potential threats, through a minor boundary modification process, to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2023,
    2. Ensuring the national villagescape protection for the full extent of Wilheminaoord,
    3. Ensuring the form, scale and placement of new buildings closely adheres to those of the original buildings in each component part,
    4. Ensuring the conservation of the grid dimensions that characterize each colony,
    5. Ensuring management of the property as a unified whole, especially that conservation approaches evolve in the same direction,
    6. Enhancing the mapping of the property to document current ownership patterns and the extent of the existing prisons and state institutions.

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Code: 43 COM 8B.38

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/19/43.COM/8B.Add and WHC/19/43.COM/INF.8B1.Add,
  2. Inscribes The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, United States of America, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion (ii);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright focusses upon the influence that the work of this architect had, not only in his country, the United States of America, but more importantly, on architecture of the 20th century and upon the recognized masters of the Modern Movement in architecture in Europe. The qualities of what is known as ‘Organic Architecture’ developed by Wright, including the open plan, the blurring between exterior and interior, the new uses of materials and technologies and the explicit responses to the suburban and natural settings of the various buildings, have been acknowledged as pivotal in the development of modern architectural design in the 20th century.

    The property includes a series of eight buildings designed and built over the first half of the 20th century; each component has specific characteristics, representing new solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work, education and leisure. The diversity of functions, scale and setting of the components of the series fully illustrate the architectural principles of “organic architecture”.

    The buildings employ geometric abstraction and spatial manipulation as a response to functional and emotional needs and are based literally or figuratively on nature’s forms and principles. In adapting inspirations from global cultures, they break free of traditional forms and facilitate modern life. Wright’s solutions would go on to influence architecture and design throughout the world, and continue to do so to this day.

    The components of the series include houses both grand and modest (including the consummate example of a “Prairie” house and the prototype “Usonian” house); a place of worship; a museum; and complexes of the architect’s own homes with studio and education facilities. These buildings are located variously in city, suburban, forest, and desert environments. The substantial range of function, scale, and setting in the series underscores both the consistency and the wide applicability of those principles. Each has been specifically recognized for its individual influence, which also contributes uniquely to the elaboration of this original architectural language.

    Such features related to innovation are subordinated to designs that integrate form, materials, technology, furnishings, and setting into a unified whole. Each building is uniquely fitted to the needs of its owner and its function and, though designed by the same architect, each has a very different character and appearance, reflecting a deep respect and appreciation for the individual and the particular. Together, these buildings illustrate the full range of this architectural language, which is a singular contribution to global architecture in spatial, formal, material, and technological terms.

    The Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property is conveyed through attributes such as spatial continuity expressed through the open plan and blurred transitions between interior and exterior spaces; dynamic forms that employ innovative structural methods and an inventive use of new materials and technologies; design inspired by nature’s forms and principles; integral relationship with nature; primacy of the individual and individualized expression and transforming inspirations from other places and cultures.

    Criterion (ii): The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright demonstrates an important interchange in the discourse that changed architecture on a global scale during the first half of the 20th century. The eight components illustrate different aspects of Wright’s new approach to architecture consciously developed for an American context; the resulting buildings, however, were in fact suited to modern life in many countries, and in their fusion of spirit and form they evoked emotional responses that were universal in their appeal. Reacting against prevailing styles in the United States, this approach took advantage of new materials and technologies, but was also inspired by principles of the natural world and was nurtured by other cultures and eras. These innovative ideas and the resulting unified architectural works were noted in European architectural and critical circles early in the century and influenced several of the trends and architects of the European Modern Movement in architecture. Wright’s influence is also noticeable in the work of some architects in Latin America, Australia and Japan.


    The serial property contains all the elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value since it encompasses the works generally understood by critics and other architects to have been most influential. Each component highlights a different aspect of the attributes that demonstrate this influence and contributes to illustrating different aspects of the Outstanding Universal Value in a defined and discernible way, and reflects clear cultural and architectural links. As an ensemble, they prove to have exerted an influence on architecture over the first half of the 20th century.

    The boundaries of each of the components include all the key elements to express their significance, although a minor boundaries modification in Taliesin, to include all the structures and gardens designed by Wright, would allow a better understanding of the whole property. The boundaries in components located in relation to wider natural settings allow an accurate representation of the relationships between the buildings and their surroundings. The components of the serial property include the buildings and interior furniture and all are overall adequately protected; none suffers from adverse effects of development or neglect. Each building has benefited from careful and comprehensive conservation studies and expert technical advice to ensure a high level of preservation.


    Most of the components of the serial property have remained remarkably unchanged since their construction in their form and design, use and function, materials and substance, spirit and feeling. Conservation of each of the buildings, when needed to correct long-term structural issues or repair deterioration, has been in accordance with high standards of professional practice, ensuring the long-term conservation of original fabric wherever possible, and the significant features of each site; in all cases work has been based on exceptionally complete documentation. Very few features have been modified; the changes and replacements of material component parts must be understood as a means of retaining their forms and uses. In cases where the original function has changed, the current use is fully consistent with the original design.

    The relationship between the sites and their settings is in general acceptable; the residential low density areas where some of the buildings are located have not experienced drastic changes in scale over time, although this is an aspect that must be considered in the protection and management systems. In the case of buildings located in natural settings, only Taliesin West poses some problems because of the expansion of the city of Scottsdale.

    Protection and management requirements

    Each property has been designated by the United States Department of the Interior as an individual National Historic Landmark, which gives it, under federal law, the highest level of protection. One of the components of the series is owned by a local government; the others are privately owned by non-profit organizations, foundations and an individual. Each building is protected from alterations, demolitions, and other inappropriate changes through deed restrictions, local preservation ordinances and zoning laws, private conservation easements, and state law. Active conservation measures have been carried out for all of the components.

    Each site has an effective management system that makes use of a suite of planning and conservation guidance. The management coordination body is the Frank Lloyd Wright World Heritage Council, established in 2012 via a Memorandum of Agreement between the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the owners and/or representatives of the owners of the individual component properties. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, an NGO with offices in Chicago organized for the purpose of preserving and protecting the remaining works of Frank Lloyd Wright, coordinates the work of the Council. Since the Council has an advisory capacity, its role in the decision making process should be strengthened.

    The development and implementation of management plans for those components which do not already have them is recommended; risk preparedness and visitor management must be considered for all of the components of the serial property.

    Key indicators to monitor the state of conservation of the buildings according to their specific characteristics have been identified; they are mostly related to building materials and, in the cases of Fallingwater and Taliesin West, to landscape features. The indicators, though, are not directly related to the attributes proposed by the State Party to convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property.

  4. Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
    1. Considering the possibility of minor boundary modifications of the area in Taliesin in order to encompass all the structures designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,
    2. Strengthening the protection of the setting of the Robie House, in particular to control potential development impact in Woodlawn Garden, by considering the possibility of a minor boundary modification of the buffer zone,
    3. Strengthening the capacity of the Frank Lloyd Wright World Heritage Council in order to ensure the appropriate coordinated management of the serial property,
    4. Elaborating upon and implementing management plans for those individual components where they do not exist, in order to encapsulate the existing conservation and management instruments in place, including risk and visitors management;
  5. Encourages the State Party to proceed to the extension of the series in the future, when the conditions for the additional components are established.

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Code: 40 COM 8B.16

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/16/40.COM/8B, WHC/16/40.COM/INF.8B1 and WHC/16/40.COM/INF.8B2,
  2. Inscribes The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities, Iraq, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii), (v), (ix) and (x);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The Ahwar of Southern Iraq evolved as part of the wider alluvial plain during the final stage of the alpine tectonic movement, which also lead to the evolvement of the Zagros Mountains. This took place during the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene eras. Several factors intertwined to construct the property including; tectonic movements, climatic changes, river hydrology dynamics, precipitation variation, and changes in sea level. The sea level variation and the climatic changes had a significant role in influencing the quantity and quality of water entering the Ahwar through rivers and their branches, in addition to advancement and regression of the sea and intrusion during dry to semi-dry to wet conditions during the last 18,000 years.

    Between the 5th and 3rd millennium BCE, the level of the Arabian Gulf reached its maximum extent some 200 km inland of the present coastline with marshes stretching further inland. The marshy and moving landscape of this deltaic plain was the heartland where the first cities flourished. Uruk, Ur and Eridu, the three cultural components of the property, were originally situated on the margins of freshwater marshes and developed into some of the most important urban centers of southern Mesopotamia. These cities saw the origin of writing, monumental architecture in the form of mudbrick temples and ziggurats, and complex technologies and societies. A vast corpus of cuneiform texts and archaeological evidence testifies to the centrality of the marshes for the economy, worldview and religious beliefs of successive cultures in southern Mesopotamia.

    Starting in the 2ndmillennium BCE, the sea regressed towards the south. This led to another climatic change towards a more arid environment and the drying up of the ancient marshes. Environmental change contributed to the decline of the great cities of southern Mesopotamia. Today the mudbrick ruins of Uruk, Ur and Eridu are dominated by the remains of ziggurats which still stand high above the arid but striking landscape of the desiccated alluvial plain. With the regression of the Gulf, new marshes formed to the southeast. The main components of the Ahwar as we know them today were formed during this period around 3,000 years ago.

    The Ahwar are generally fed by the branches of the Tigris and Euphrates, in addition to extremely low winter rainfall and subsequent floods. These factors collectively determine the surface area covered by water as well as its fluctuations; the peak taking place in the flooding season associated with rainfall upstream in the basin during winter and then affected by the snowmelt during spring, and reaching the lowest levels during the dry summer period. This fluctuation in water levels and surface areas has resulted in highly dynamic and variable ecological conditions.

    The Huwaizah Marshes component is a unique freshwater system, receiving high water quantities from floods and limited amounts of seasonal rain which descends from the northern and northeastern heights. Concurrently, it is the sole natural component that was not subject to drastic drought during the man-induced drainage phase in the 1980s and 1990s, leading to the salvation of its key ecological elements. This led it to become the primary refuge for many of the key bird species of African and Indian origin in the Middle East, which have since spread back to other components after the reflooding took place in early 2000s.

    By contrast, the Central Marshes component comprises today’s ecological core of the Ahwar. Being distinctive for its horizontally extensive ecosystems, it provides a vast habitat for many of the viable populations of taxa of high biodiversity and conservation importance.

    Moving towards the east and south, the East and West Hammar Marshes components embrace a particular ecological phenomenon in contrast with the other components. Here, the salt water from the sea progresses inland affected on one side by tidal movements in the southern-most regions of marshes, while on the other side, pushing its way into the extended desert to the southeast. This creates very specific ecological conditions with fish species from marine origins utilizing the area for reproduction in the East Hammar, while the West Hammar comprises the last stopover area for millions of migrating birds before entering the vast Arabian Desert.

    Criterion (iii): The remains of the Mesopotamian cities of Uruk, Ur and Eridu offer a complete testimony to the growth and subsequent decline of southern Mesopotamian urban centers and societies from the Ubaid and Sumerian periods until the Babylonian and Hellenistic periods. The three cities were major religious, political, economic and cultural centers which emerged and grew during a period of profound change in human history. These three components of the property bear witness to the full repertoire of the contribution of southern Mesopotamian cultures to the development of ancient Near Eastern urbanized societies and the history of mankind as a whole: the construction of monumental public works and structures in the form of ziggurats, temples, palaces, city walls, and hydraulic works; a class structured society reflected in the urban layout which included royal tombs and palaces, sacred precincts, public storehouses, areas dedicated to industries, and extensive residential neighborhoods; the centralized control of resources and surplus which gave rise to the first writing system and administrative archives; and conspicuous consumption of imported goods. This exceptionally creative period in human history left its marks across place and time.

    Criterion (v): The remains of the ancient cities of Uruk, Ur and Eridu – today in the desert but originally situated near freshwater marshes which receded or became saline before drying up – best exemplify the impact of the unstable deltaic landscape of the Tigris and Euphrates upon the rise and fall of large urban centers. Testimonies of this relict wetland landscape are found today in the cities' topography as traces of shallow depressions which held permanent or seasonal marshes, dry waterways and canal beds, and settlement mounds formed upon what were once islets surrounded by marsh water. Architectural elements, archaeological evidence and an important corpus of cuneiform texts further document how the landscape of wetlands contributed to shaping the religious beliefs, cultic practices, and literary and artistic expressions of successive cultures in southern Mesopotamia. The contemporary Ahwar of southern Iraq bear a strong cultural significance as they offer the closest living representation of the environmental context which fostered the development of the first cities and complex societies in the region, and fashioned the worldview of Mesopotamian cultures. The association of the contemporary Ahwar with some of the most prominent and best documented ancient urban centers of southern Iraq allows for understanding the unique ancient cultural landscape of alluvial Mesopotamia where cities were islands embedded in a marshy plain.

    Criterion (ix): The site contains outstanding examples representing ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh and salt water ecosystems and communities of various taxa.

    The Ahwar of southern Iraq may be one the largest-scale wetland ecosystem that is located in the most arid environment globally. The grand mosaic of the four components of the property is an exceptional example of ongoing ecological processes which reflect this extreme and harsh environment, particularly regarding  almost complete dependence on riverine influx and negligible direct contribution of precipitation on-site to the water budget, very high water temperatures around or in excess of 30°C in summer with no thermal stratification of the water column, high irradiation  which   leads to very high primary production, high dissolved oxygen concentrations throughout the water column and high overall ecosystem productivity.

    The bird migration and the migration of fish and shrimp species which occur within the property’s habitats reflect an adaptation process by these animals to long-term seasonal fluctuations in water levels and other ecological variables.

    The Ahwar have developed an amazing ecological resilience, remarkable adaptive capacity against fluctuations and environmental change, in addition to the velocity of recovery processes.  The Ahwar of Iraq are set apart by the fact that the last dramatic recovery process took place very recently, right after the drastic destruction of the Ahwar during the second half of the last century and the re-flooding of the Ahwar at the beginning of the new millennium.

    Criterion (x): The proposed site contains highly important and significant habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of high conservation and scientific importance. The Ahwar of southern Iraq are one of the world’s most important freshwater ecosystems situated within an extremely arid environment with some of the highest evaporation and transpiration levels, and some of the lowest levels of rainfall. They can be considered a "wetland island in a vast ocean of desert". The Ahwar embrace a mosaic of habitats critical for a significant number of taxa, including globally threatened and range-restricted species and isolated populations, thus creating a site of global caliber in terms of species of conservation priority.

    The Ahwar host 12 globally threatened bird species, such as the vulnerable Marbled Teal.   Another vulnerable species, the Basra Reed-Warbler, which is a restricted-range species, has more than 70% of its breeding population in the Marshes. The Ahwar also include critical natural habitats for three threatened mammal species, including the Smooth-coated Otter and the Bunn’s Bandicot Rat. The Euphrates Soft-shell Turtle is an endangered species that is only known from a few localities in Iraq and Iran, whereas Murray’s Comb-fingered Gecko has a restricted range limited to the Ahwar, Shatt Al Arab and the Iranian western shores on the Arabian Gulf.


    The three archaeological ensembles included in the property offer a comprehensive picture of the Ubaid and Sumerian urbanization process within their original marshlands environment. All the major archaeological and architectural features of Eridu, Uruk, and Ur are contained within the boundaries of the property ensuring that each component part bears a complete significance and contributes to expressing the Outstanding Universal Value of the property as a whole.

    The use of mud as the main building material in southern Mesopotamia creates specific conservation conditions. The toll which the passing of time took on the abandoned southern Mesopotamian cities is heavier than in the case of stone or fired brick architecture found in other regions of the ancient world where remains can be monumental and visually impressive. Yet the remains of the four ziggurats of Eridu, Uruk and Ur, however eroded, still tower over the desert landscape and provide a striking visual testimony of the antiquity and durability of the most emblematic architectural features of Mesopotamian cities.

    Layers of sedimentation protected the remains of Uruk, Ur and Eridu until the 20th century when archaeological excavations exposed several buildings anew. Eridu’s excavated remains were later reburied except for the ziggurat. In Uruk and Ur there were some instances of incompatible material used to consolidate or protect the remains, whereas others were left exposed with the result that some have become affected by erosion caused mainly by rain and dust storms.   Furthermore, large areas of the three cities are still unearthed, leaving room for further study of archaeological and conservation techniques respectful of the property’s integrity.

    Uruk, Ur and Eridu are protected under the Iraqi Law of Antiquities and Heritage and are provided with personnel to ensure the protection and monitoring of the antiquities. Lastly, only Ur has suffered limited and reversible damages during the recent conflict and remedial measures are introduced under the new management plan.

    The four natural components of the property and their associated corridors comprise a vast region of over 210,000 ha, thus being of sufficient size to adequately support all key natural values including the ongoing ecological and biological processes occurring in the terrestrial, water and marshland ecosystems. The large size of the associated buffer zones around each of the four components, totaling more than 200,000 additional hectares, further serves the long term protection of the property on a whole as well as at the component level.

    The four components embrace the vast majority of the breeding grounds of key bird species within different regions of the property. The breeding grounds are areas of low human intervention where reed vegetation is used to build nests on the banks of the small islets abundant in the area which are surrounded with extensive water bodies located in isolation from the dry lands and away from potential predators.

    Numerous populations of more than 197 species of migrating water birds associated with the Palearctic region settle on the property and spend winter periods here during their west Eurasia-Caspian-Nile and Eurasian-Africa route migrations. The numbers of landing migrating birds is increasing on the property, paralleling the improving levels of rehabilitation. Further, increasing records of the occurrence of globally threatened species are being documented, hence reflecting positively on the property’s ecological integrity. 

    The existing legal frameworks in relationship to the Ahwar are well developed with the national nature conservation bylaw endorsement by the government cabinet in late 2013. 


    Considering the particulars of mud architecture, the conditions of authenticity as regards the material and substance are considered to be met by the visible presence of a series of emblematic public buildings in the three cultural components of the property. Previous excavations at Ur and Eridu have concentrated on monumental public buildings and allowed for a good understanding of the spatial organization of the political, administrative and religious sections of the cities. In Ur, the main harbor, situated outside the boundaries of the property, has yet to be excavated and the boundaries of the property might be extended at a later stage to include it. No major restoration or conservation projects have been carried out with the exception of the 1960s rebuilding of part of the outer shell of the Ur ziggurat using baked brick and limited amounts of cement. These interventions did not affect the original structure and shape of the monument. More recent conservation of the site has been done using compatible material as much as possible.

    Changes in the water regime have modified the hydrological and ecological environment of southern Iraq as the marshes moved southeastward through space and time. The remains of Uruk, Ur and Eridu are today surrounded by a desert landscape and are at a significant distance from the marsh components of the property and the sea. Taking this ecological reality into consideration, the conditions of authenticity are considered to be met by including in the property the ancient cities of Ur, Uruk and Eridu.

  4. Congratulates the State Party for the restoration work that has been undertaken to recover the wetland areas in the Ahwar of Southern Iraq to date, and strongly encourages this work to continue in order to permanently secure the minimum flows needed to the property and its buffer zones;
  5. Requests the State Party, with support of IUCN, ICOMOS and the World Heritage Centre to:
    1. in relation to natural heritage:
      1. conduct further studies regarding minimum water flows needed to sustain the biodiversity and ecological processes for the inscribed property,
      2. conduct further studies to confirm the plant, vertebrate and invertebrate diversity within the property and its surrounding landscapes,
      3. complete the designation of all of the components of the property as legally protected areas, and ensure effective legal protection to regulate oil and gas concessions, and other potentially impacting activities in the buffer zones of the property,
      4. provide support for the maintenance of the traditional ecological knowledge held by the men and women of the Ma’adan “Marsh Arabs” communities, and for rights-based approaches to management, recognising the customary use of the property;
    2. in relation to cultural heritage:
      1. in order to address the highly unstable conservation conditions of the archaeological sites, undertake a programme of surveys to create a base-line delineation of the state of conservation of the property,
      2. develop conservation programmes for all three cities on the basis of the surveys that clearly set out the various options for intervention,
      3. produce a detailed master plan/road map that ensures the conservation of the property on a sustainable basis;
    3. ensure effective implementation of the consolidated management plan and publicize it in both English and Arabic, setting out the governance systems and how it relates to management plans for individual component sites and ensuring its effective consultation and communication with local communities and other stakeholders,
    4. put in place a programme to ensure an adequate level of protection and effective site-level management capacity for all component parts of the property, and appropriate capacity building activities;
  6. Further requests the State Party to submit an edited version of the nomination text and of the map showing the boundaries according to the statement jointly signed with the State Party of the Islamic Republic of Iran;
  7. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2017 a report on the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.

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