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Decision 45 COM 7.2
State of conservation of World Heritage properties

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7,
  2. Recalling Decisions 40 COM 7, 41 COM 7, 42 COM 7, 43 COM 7.2, and 44 COM 7.2 adopted at its 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 41st (Krakow, 2017), 42nd (Manama, 2018), 43rd (Baku, 2019) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Also recalling that all proposed major interventions in and around World Heritage properties should be subject to rigorous impact assessments, as outlined in Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines, in line with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context, and that both the proposals and the impact assessment-related documentation be submitted, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, before any intervention for new construction, demolition, modification, recovery or reconstruction commences or decisions made that cannot be reversed;


    Emergency situations resulting from conflicts

  4. Expresses utmost concern that conflicts (including armed conflict and civil unrest) continue to represent a major threat to World Heritage properties and remain one of the major reasons for the inscription of properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  5. Regrets the loss of human life and the degradation of humanitarian conditions resulting from the prevailing conflict situations in several countries, including threats to the personnel and local communities, as well as the continuing threats facing cultural and natural heritage in regions of armed conflict where there are significant concerns regarding security in and around World Heritage properties;
  6. Welcomes protection and conservation efforts being undertaken by the concerned States Parties at World Heritage properties and that the States Parties are progressively proceeding with the development of corrective measures and the definition of the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) for some cultural properties following due process;
  7. Urges again all parties associated with conflicts to ensure the protection of cultural and natural heritage, including to avoid their use for military purposes and also urges States Parties to fulfil their obligations under international law, including the 1954 Convention and its two Protocols, by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, including of World Heritage properties and sites included in Tentative Lists;
  8. Reiterates its utmost concern about the continuing threats of wildlife poaching and illegal trafficking of wildlife and timber products linked to impacts of armed conflict and organized crime, which is eroding the biodiversity and Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties around the world, and further urges States Parties to take the necessary measures to curb this problem, including through the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
  9. Also reiterates its utmost concern at the increase in illicit trafficking of cultural objects, resulting from armed conflicts, and appeals to all States Parties to cooperate in the fight against these threats, and for cultural heritage protection in general, including through the ratification of the 1970 Convention and the 1954 Convention and its two Protocols, as well as the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2199 (2015), 2253 (2015) and 2347 (2017), and the implementation of the UNESCO Recommendations on Museums and Collections (2015);
  10. Welcomes the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies’ continued actions in responding to emergencies and conflicts threatening cultural and natural heritage, including the Outstanding Universal Value, including through the Revive the Spirit of Mosul and the Li Beirut initiatives, the Heritage Emergency Fund (HEF) and the Rapid Response Facility (RRF) and also UNESCO actions in Ukraine and emergency programmes in Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Central African Republic, Palestine, and other countries;
  11. Reiterates its call upon the international community to further support the safeguarding of the cultural and natural heritage of countries affected by conflict, through earmarked funds or through contributions to the UNESCO World Heritage Fund, HEF and RRF;

    Recovery and Reconstruction

  12. Recalls that reconstruction is justifiable only in exceptional circumstances, and should be based on thorough documentation, guided by conservation plans and policies that support the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and as outlined in Paragraph 86 of the Operational Guidelines;
  13. Takes note of the various programmes initiated and implemented by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies and other international partners to respond to the destruction of heritage through documentation, emergency response, recovery and reconstruction;
  14. Welcomes the continued efforts by States Parties in responding to post-conflict and post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, including the various reconstruction projects nearing completion, as well as their positive social and community interlinkages and thanks France, Germany, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Spain, the Sultanate of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), the Heritage Emergency Fund and the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH) for their generous support, including for the reconstruction of the House of Wonder, an emblematic building in East Africa, in the Stone Town of Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania;
  15. Encourages all State Parties to prepare comprehensive risk preparedness strategies and emergency response plans for World Heritage properties that are exposed to risk from natural disasters;
  16. Requests States Parties to ensure the integrity of the OUV of World Heritage properties and that all recovery and reconstruction projects be guided by thorough and comprehensive recovery proposals, including plans and drawings, integrated and aligned with the needs of local communities and subject to rigorous impact assessments as noted in Paragraph 3 above;


    Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

  17. Welcomes the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) during the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in December 2022 to set the global pathway to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  18. Requests the States Parties to fully harness the World Heritage Convention in supporting the goals and targets of the GBF, including through effective collaboration among convention focal points, and by integrating World Heritage-related objectives within their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs);
  19. Also requests the World Heritage Centre, in collaboration with the Advisory Bodies, to identify and develop coordinated actions on World Heritage and the GBF, including specific guidance on how the World Heritage Convention might contribute to the aims of the Joint Programme of Work on the Links between Biological and Cultural Diversity, subject to the availability of resources, and to integrate reporting on progress regarding contributions of World Heritage to the GBF under the Committee’s item on Sustainable Development and invites States Parties to contribute financially for this purpose;


    Urban pressure

  20. Notes that pressures on historic urban areas arising from inappropriate urban development interventions and inadequate development controls, rapid and inadequately planned development, including large development projects, additions that are incompatible in their volume, tourism and transportation infrastructure, as well as the accumulated impact of incremental changes, have continued within numerous World Heritage properties and in their buffer zones and settings, and considers that these present significant potential and ascertained major threats to the Outstanding Universal Value of properties, including their integrity and authenticity, and increase their vulnerability to disasters, such as those resulting from climate change;
  21. Also noting that the findings of the UNESCO Third Member State Consultation on the Implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2011 Recommendation) request States Parties to implement the 2011 Recommendation in urban World Heritage properties and, with technical assistance from the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to integrate it as a tool in the monitoring processes of the state of conservation, and the preparation and updating of management plans concerning nomination process for World Heritage properties in cities and settlements including with the support of the World Heritage Urban Heritage Atlas tool;
  22. Recalls the essential contribution of local communities, and the importance of their participation in decision-making processes, as well as the need to support sustainable, compatible, and inclusive livelihoods for local communities and further requests States Parties to embed stakeholder engagement in management systems and processes, in line with Paragraph 12 of the Operational Guidelines, with the 2011 Recommendation and the Policy on the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the World Heritage Convention (2015);
  23. Invites all States Parties to establish governance mechanisms for urban heritage that support coordination and coherence across different sectors such as infrastructure, tourism, transport, and urban development to integrate heritage management into the plans and processes of the settlement and the region;
  24. Stresses the importance of carrying out impact assessments to evaluate and thereby avoid or manage potential threats to the OUV of properties, including their authenticity and integrity, arising from new urban development projects in line with paragraph 3 above;
  25. Also emphasizes the need to enhance resilience of World Heritage properties in urban areas vulnerable to climate change-related impacts, in line with the 2011 Recommendation and the outcomes of the activities of the UNESCO World Heritage Cities Programme;

    Infrastructure development
  26. Notes with concern the growing pressure of infrastructure development, such as extractive mining activities, dams, hydropower, transportation infrastructure, and the expansion of tourism infrastructure, on the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties;
  27. Welcomes the commitment announced by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) that no new hydropower projects should be developed in World Heritage properties, and a duty of care pledge to implement high standards of performance and transparency for any hydropower projects outside of but affecting protected areas such as World Heritage properties;
  28. Strongly urges all States Parties, development proponents and financiers to incorporate the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context into planning and decision-making processes to contribute to safeguarding the OUV of World Heritage properties, in line with Paragraph 3 above;
  29. Requests all States Parties to:
    1. Inform the World Heritage Centre of any planned developments located within a World Heritage property, its buffer zone or in its wider setting that may impact on its OUV, prior to making any decision that would be difficult to reverse, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines,
    2. Ensure that the potential impacts of developments on the OUV are appropriately assessed, in line with Paragraph 3 above,
    3. Ensure that no proposed developments proceed that would negatively impact on the OUV,
    4. Ensure that no deliberate measures are taken, which might damage directly or indirectly the inscribed properties situated on the territory of other States Parties to the Convention, in conformity with Article 6 of the World Heritage Convention;

    Corporate Sector and the World Heritage ‘no-go’ commitment

  30. Welcomes the launch of the UNESCO Guidance for the World Heritage ‘No-Go’ Commitment: Global standards for corporate sustainability as a means to assist the corporate sector to develop or update their policies and strategies to safeguard World Heritage, and thanks the Government of Flanders (Belgium) for its financial support;

  31. Requests the World Heritage Centre, in collaboration with the Advisory Bodies, to continue its collaboration with the corporate sector in view of supporting the adoption and implementation of World Heritage safeguard policies, and invites companies and relevant organisations to develop and update their corporate sustainability policies in line with the UNESCO guidance, and lodge them with UNESCO;

    Rights-based Issues

  32. Recalling Article 5 of the Convention that each State Party shall adopt for each country a general policy, which aims to give the cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community, and the integration of the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes are means of ensuring effective protection, conservation and presentation of cultural and natural heritage,
  33. Also recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
  34. Further recalling the various provisions of the Operational Guidelines that encourage States Parties to adopt a human rights-based approach to the nomination and subsequent effective management of inscribed World Heritage properties,
  35. Bearing in mind that specific and significant spiritual meanings are mentioned to justify the Outstanding Universal Value of a large number of the World Heritage properties to be found in most countries around the world, also recalling a number of research studies and analyses of religious heritage and sacred sites carried out by the Advisory Bodies,
  36. Underlining that living religious and sacred sites require specific approach and policies for protection and management that take into account their distinct spiritual nature, crucial to their Outstanding Universal Value, as a key factor in their conservation and that such policies cannot be sustainable without in-depth consultation with the appropriate stakeholders;
  37. Calls upon all States Parties to ensure that human rights, including cultural rights, are protected as an integral part of the management of World Heritage properties by establishing equitable and participatory governance arrangements;
  38. Strongly condemns all forms of human rights violations and abuses towards indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), including any forced eviction;
  39. Notes with utmost concern the reported cases of alleged human rights abuses towards IPLCs in and around World Heritage properties and therefore, strongly urges the States Parties concerned to urgently investigate the allegations and take appropriate actions to address their findings, following an equitably governed consultative process with the participation and decision making of all rightsholders and stakeholders;
  40. Reminds States Parties of their obligations to ensure that the management of World Heritage properties follows a rights-based approach that includes full involvement of all rightsholders and stakeholders, in particular IPLCs, in line with the 2015 Policy on World Heritage and Sustainable Development, the UNESCO Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and international human rights standards;
  41. Requests the Secretariat, with the Advisory Bodies, to enhance activities in the framework of the Initiative on Heritage of Religious Interest and to resume elaboration of the thematic paper proposing to the States Parties general guidance regarding the management of their cultural and natural heritage of religious interest, and in compliance with the national specificities, and invites the States Parties to provide voluntary contributions to this end;


    Earth observation and spatial data for World Heritage conservation

  42. Welcomes the development of the World Heritage Online Mapping Platform to provide a comprehensive, complete, accurate and geo-referenced dataset for the World Heritage properties that, in the pilot phase of the project, are in the Europe and North America region, and thanks the Government of Flanders (Belgium) for the support provided to the pilot phase of the project;
  43. Also welcomes the Urban Heritage Atlas platform and tool for geo-referenced cultural mapping of the attributes of urban heritage and invites States Parties to use the tool for better managing their World Heritage properties and takes note with satisfaction of the continued activities of the Urban Heritage Climate Observatory applying earth observation tools for World Heritage cities;
  44. Invites States Parties to contribute to the above-mentioned platforms and tools with already available GIS data, complementary narrative and visual analysis, expertise, networks, and financial resources;
  45. Reiterates its request to States Parties, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to strengthen collaborative partnerships with UNESCO Category 2 Centres and other relevant institutions with a view to furthering the necessary institutional and individual capacity needed to make full use of spatial data, Earth observation satellite technologies and analysis tools for the monitoring of the state of conservation of World Heritage properties.