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Socotra Archipelago

Yemen
Factors affecting the property in 2013*
  • Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
  • Governance
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Invasive / alien marine species
  • Legal framework
  • Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Solid waste
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Threats identified at the time of inscription of the property in 2008:

  • Legal frameworks, governance and management systems;
  • Ground transport infrastructure: roading;
  • Livestock grazing: sheep, goat and cattle;
  • Invasive species;
  • Fishing and collection of marine resources;
  • Solid waste: primarily in and around main settlements.
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2013
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2013**

December 2012: IUCN mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

In November 2012, IUCN conducted a mission in follow up to the property’s inscription on the World Heritage List in 2008 (Decision 32 COM 8B.5), and assessed the progress achieved by the State Party in the implementation of the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee. The mission report is available online at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/37COM. The mission reported on the key issues as follows:

a)  Governance and Management

The mission noted that an overall governance framework of the property, including a set of five Cabinet decrees setting the strategic goals and actions adopted by the government of Yemen for Socotra, was in place. However, little evidence was found of a systematic management planning framework geared towards long term protection and sustainability. Socotra seems to have been subject to a period of stagnancy which started soon after the inscription.

No concrete progress has been made towards establishment of an independent authority for Socotra mandated to oversee the Archipelago’s management and protection. The current capacity of the Environment Protection Authority is below the minimum level of human and financial resources as well as law enforcement powers needed to ensure the effective management of the property. The property management plan has not been reviewed or developed in response to its inscription on the World Heritage List. The buffer zones of the property also lack adequate regulations and management systems needed to achieve functionality as a shock absorber to threats approaching the property.

b)  Road Construction

The mission identified the road construction issue as a main threat to the conservation status of Socotra. Specifically, roads lead to the complete destruction of the lands over which they run, and can significantly alter additional lands from which road building material is sourced. Poorly constructed roads also lead to the risk of erosion and landslides, as already observed by the mission within the property.  Roads also facilitate the propagation of introduced species and ease of access for illegal activities. The mission noted that most of the 450km of roads constructed in the Archipelago were constructed with minimal environmental or social safeguards and precautions. However, it reported that road construction had ceased since late 2010 due to political instability and economic constraints. However, there is no guarantee that the construction works will not be reactivated in the future. The mission further reported that there seemed to be a high level of awareness and commitment among the Government to mitigate the negative impacts of roads and to adopt a new set of guidelines and procedures for road construction and other infrastructure development fully responsive to Socotra’s World Heritage status. 

c)  Livestock Grazing

Many biodiversity and conservation experts identify the issue of grazing as the key factor negatively impacting the conservation of the property. The mission noted excessive grazing levels evident throughout the main island of Socotra. Currently, there is no capacity to assess the actual level of grazing impact on the biodiversity and rangeland productivity of the Archipelago. The mission noted a lack of systematic approach towards addressing the grazing impacts. They also concluded that little could be done to address the grazing challenges at the current stage of economic and social circumstances. This is due to the socio-economic sensitivity of the activity for local people and the fact that the islands have gone through consecutive years of severe drought and low productivity. The mission concluded that the grazing issue represented an ongoing and possibly expanding challenge facing the property in the main island of Socotra specifically, and possibly the island of Abdul Kori.

d)  Invasive Species

The mission did not document any concrete actions taken by relevant authorities to deal with alien species import or native species export. This includes the inability to control the numerous access points on the island. The Environmental Protection Authority currently has limited capacity on the island to enforce such controls, especially after 2008, which marked an amplification of the problem. It is noted that the status is even more challenging for the outer islands of the Archipelago where almost no information is available and very little control is exerted.

e)  Tourism Development

The mission concluded that tourism did not represent for the time being a major issue for the conservation of the Archipelago. Nevertheless, it is recognized as a potential future threat, especially considering the lack of tourism strategy for the property, the limited capacities of relevant authorities to manage tourism, the low levels of management infrastructure and facilities, and lack of control systems and monitoring protocols.

Visitor numbers were increasing between 2008 and 2010 but declined upon the political crisis in Yemen. Visitor numbers could easily pick up again after the foreseen period of stability, hence a clear strategic approach is required for future management and development.

f)  Marine Resource Exploitation

Fishing and other forms of collection of aquatic resources were identified by the IUCN mission, local communities and scientific experts as a continuing threat and issue for the conservation of the property. The effect is amplified by the increase of security problems in the Indian Ocean and the limited law enforcement capacities of the Archipelago authorities to respond. Further, the issue related to dead coral collection and export to neighbouring countries does not seem to have been resolved considering economic perspective and impact on coastal zones. 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2013

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the strong governance framework developed for Socotra upon its inscription. The 2008 Cabinet Decrees represent a firm commitment from the Government of Yemen to safeguard Socotra and adopt a strategy for its protection and sustainable development. It seems however, that this commitment has been greatly challenged by development pressure in 2009 and 2010. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN are of the view that, if the construction of new or unfinished roads within the core biodiversity areas is resumed, it would pose a serious potential threat to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in line with paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also note the continuation of several key issues with high impacts on the long term conservation and sustainability of the property’s natural values and associated cultural attributes. These include the absence of a management system for the property supported by adequate levels of human and financial resources, the continuing impacts from past road construction, current livestock grazing, alien species introduction, solid waste accumulation, and marine resources exploitation, in addition to the potential impacts of unsustainable tourism and visitation.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further note the limited capacities of the national and local authorities to adopt a management framework associated with clear programmes for law enforcement, monitoring, documentation and awareness-raising. This represents a key impediment to the long term protection and sustainability of the property’s biodiversity and natural resources. They note that a positive outcome of the mission is a partnership between IUCN and the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage to provide additional capacity building to the property. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2013
37 COM 7B.9
Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) (N 1263)
Decision:       37 COM 7B.9

The World Heritage Committee,

1.         Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.         Recalling Decision 32 COM 8B.5, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3.         Welcomes the State Party’s formal pledge to conservation of the property through reconfirming commitment to the full implementation of the 2008 Cabinet Decrees addressing the various challenges facing the property;

4.         Notes the challenging period the State Party is facing which hindered its ability to activate and follow up on the agreed strategies and actions for the conservation of the property;

5.         Requests the State Party to immediately devise and adopt an action plan for the full activation and implementation the 2008 Cabinet Decrees; 

6.         Also requests the State Party to commence the establishment of an independent management authority mandated for the management and long term sustainable development of the property;

7.         Further requests the State Party to ensure that the road network in the property is not expanded and that the road master plan is revised in line with the property’s zoning plan, with a particular focus on mitigating impacts from existing roads;

8.         Urges the State Party to implement the other recommendations of the 2012 IUCN mission, including:

a)         Put in place an effective biodiversity monitoring system with the objective to assess the current impacts of other threats, such as cattle grazing and invasive species, and devise threat specific strategies to ensure their minimal long term impacts,

b)         Adopt a strategy on strengthening the marine enforcement capacity supported by a clear policy framework,

c)         Undertake a comprehensive tourism carrying capacity assessment and establish a monitoring system to ensure tourism sustainability and its minimal impact on the natural heritage and associated cultural values of the Archipelago,

d)         Develop and implement a tourism development and marketing strategy for the Archipelago in collaboration with local and international private sectors;

9.         Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2015, a report on the progress made with the improvement of the management of the property and in addressing key conservation challenges and opportunities, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

Draft Decision:  37 COM 7B.9

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.  Recalling Decision 32 COM 8B.5, adopted at its 32th session (Quebec City, 2008),

3.  Welcomes the State Party’s formal pledge to conservation of the property through reconfirming commitment to the full implementation of the 2008 Cabinet Decrees addressing the various challenges facing the property;

4.  Notes the challenging period the State Party is facing which hindered its ability to activate and follow up on the agreed strategies and actions for the conservation of the property;

5.  Requests the State Party to immediately devise and adopt an action plan for the full activation and implementation the 2008 Cabinet Decrees; 

6.  Also requests the State Party to commence the establishment of an independent management authority mandated for the management and long term sustainable development of the property;

7.  Further requests the State Party to ensure that the road network in the property is not expanded and that the road master plan is revised in line with the property’s zoning plan, with a particular focus on mitigating impacts from existing roads;

8.  Urges the State Party to implement the other recommendations of the 2012 IUCN mission, including:

a)  Put in place an effective biodiversity monitoring system with the objective to assess the current impacts of other threats, such as cattle grazing and invasive species, and devise threat specific strategies to ensure their minimal long term impacts,

b)  Adopt a strategy on strengthening the marine enforcement capacity supported by a clear policy framework,

c)  Undertake a comprehensive tourism carrying capacity assessment and establish a monitoring system to ensure tourism sustainability and its minimal impact on the natural heritage and associated cultural values of the Archipelago,

d)  Develop and implement a tourism development and marketing strategy for the Archipelago in collaboration with local and international private sectors;

9.  Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2015, a report on the progress made with the improvement of the management of the property and in addressing key conservation challenges and opportunities, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

 

Report year: 2013
Yemen
Date of Inscription: 2008
Category: Natural
Criteria: (x)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 37COM (2013)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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