Government of Mali and UNESCO move to protect Timbuktu and other heritage sites in the north of Mali
The Government of Mali and UNESCO have defined measures to safeguard World Heritage Properties in the north of Mali, including the fabled city of Timbuktu, following reports of wilful damage to mausoleums in the World Heritage site.
UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Africa, Lalla Aicha Ben Barka, travelled to Bamako (18 – 20 May) and met senior government officials including Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, who is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. She was accompanied by Kishore Rao, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, Juma Shabani, head of UNESCO’s Office in Mali, and Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Chief of the World Heritage Centre’s Africa Desk.
Mali and UNESCO agreed to take the following steps to preserve the country’s cultural heritage:
- Mali is to finalize its accession to the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to enable it to submit requests for the granting of enhanced protection to cultural properties that are of the greatest importance to humanity.
- The government of Mali will request the inscription of the two World Heritage sites of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the World Heritage Committee during its forthcoming session (24 June to 6 July).
- Mali has furthermore undertaken to draft an exhaustive report concerning priority measures to preserve Mali’s World Heritage sites, in line with international heritage conventions. Mali is also to request technical and financial assistance from UNESCO and the international community.
UNESCO for its part is to:
- Present the World Heritage Committee with a detailed report on the state of conservation of World Heritage sites in Mali, notably Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia during its next meeting. The report is also to include measures taking by the Government of Mali to safeguard these sites.
- Assist the Government of Mali in reinforcing protection of all its cultural properties which are essential for the preservation of Malian culture, described by the Government as both “rich and tolerant, and part of the heritage of humanity.”
- Raise awareness in Mali’s neighbouring countries and among members of the international community of the situation to help fight the illicit trade in cultural artefacts.
- Work in close cooperation with all U.N. organizations engaged in humanitarian action in Mali to ensure the safeguarding of the country’s cultural property.
At the end of UNESCO’s mission to Mali, the country’s Culture Minister Diallo Fadima Touré declared that “UNESCO’s mission, which has led to the development of the first emergency measures to safeguard the World Heritage sites of Mali, is the first cultural response to the crisis in the north of country.”
The mission followed the declaration by UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, that UNESCO stands ready to assist Mali preserve its cultural heritage. In a press statement on 5 April, Ms Bokova stressed that “Timbuktu’s outstanding earthen architectural wonders that are the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, must be safeguarded. Along with the site’s 16 cemeteries and mausolea, they are essential to the preservation of the identity of the people of Mali and of our universal heritage,” the Director-General added.
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,
2. Congratulates the State Party for having immediately expressed its concern regarding the worsening threats to the World Heritage cultural properties, in particular to Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia, and for having requested UNESCO assistance for measures to be undertaken in the event of a future deterioration of the situation;
3. Thanks the Director-General of UNESCO for having sent a mission to Mali to study with the State Party emergency measures to be taken to ensure the preservation of the World Heritage properties in Mali and takes note of the report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties in Mali threatened by armed conflict in the northern region of Mali;
4. Expresses its serious concern regarding the situation of armed conflict in the northern region of Mali and the seriousness of threats to the World Heritage properties following the degradation of the Timbuktu tombs, and the threats to the conservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Tomb of Askia;
5. Considers that the optimal conditions are not present anymore to ensure the preservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the properties of Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia and that they are threatened by a specific and proven imminent danger, in accordance with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines;
6. Decides to inscribe Timbuktu (Mali) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
7. Also decides to inscribe the Tomb of Askia (Mali) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
8. Requests the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS to prepare, in consultation with the State Party, all the corrective measures as well as a Desired State of Conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger, once a return to stability is effective in the northern region of Mali;
9. Launches an appeal to the frontier States Parties to Mali (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal) to cooperate in the preparation of a joint conservation strategy for World Heritage properties of Mali and to combat the illicit traffic of cultural objects, in particular those linked to these properties;
10. Also launches an appeal to the African Union and the CEDEAO in order that all the necessary measures may be undertaken to protect cultural heritage located in the northern region of Mali and to the international community to provide technical and financial support to ensure the strengthened protection of the World Heritage properties in Mali;
11. Encourages the State Party to request emergency funding from the World Heritage Fund to implement the priority actions identified during the UNESCO mission, and also requests the assistance of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM to this end;
12. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2013, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties in Mali and more particularly on the progress achieved regarding their Outstanding Universal Value for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.Read more about the decision