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Royal Palaces of Abomey

Benin
Factors affecting the property in 2013*
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
  • Legal framework
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Fire; Major deterioration of almost 50% of the earthen structural components

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Absence of a national legislative mechanism for the protection of cultural heritage;
  • Major deterioration of almost 50% of the earthen structural components;
  • Lack of presentation and interpretation at the site;
  • Lack and loss of documentation on the site;
  • Lack of sharing of knowledge between site managers and among authorities;
  • Need to distinguish between the site museum and the World Heritage site;
  • No conservation or safeguarding measures have been undertaken at the site following the 2012 fire. 
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2013

Total amount granted: USD 450,000 from the Government of Japan and from the Riksantikvaren (Norwegian Cultural Heritage Directorate)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2013
Requests approved: 5 (from 1985-1997)
Total amount approved : 113,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2013**

May/June 2004 and February 2007: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS missions; February 2006: Joint World Heritage Centre / CRAterre-ENSAG / Getty Conservation Institute monitoring mission; December 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS / ICCROM reactive monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

From 3 to 7 December 2012, a joint World Heritage / ICOMOS / ICCROM reactive monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012).  On 30 January 2013, the State Party submitted a State of Conservation Report. The report provides an overview of the state of conservation of the buildings within the property and progress on revising the existing management plan and the development of a disaster risk management plan and a rehabilitation strategy. 

a)  Development of a Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Plan

The State Party reports that the work on the disaster risk management plan is ongoing, but has not yet been completed.  They state that a training activity on the topic will be taking place in February 2013 and that they intend to use this training as a means of developing and verifying aspects of the plan.  The final draft of the plan should be completed in April 2013.  In the interim, however, the State Party has installed fire hydrants as part of a decentralized cooperation between the city of Albi in France and the City of Abomey. The implementation of this cooperation activity is in its final phase.  A video surveillance system has also been installed at the property.

The mission noted that the risk of fire is heightened by the lack of maintenance at the property, and in particular the high grass that is allowed to grow near unused buildings. While the installation of fire hydrants is a step in the right direction, there is also a need for regular maintenance and the removal, where possible, of flammable materials which augment the risk of fire. 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the intention of the State Party to finalize the disaster risk management plan but are concerned that the training activity may not provide sufficient time to be able to complete the exercise.  Given that there have been two fires at the property since 2009, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider the finalization and especially the implementation of this plan should be prioritised by the State Party. 

b)  Development of a Reconstruction Policy for Fire Damaged Buildings

The State Party reports that the reconstruction policy for individual buildings is considered to be part of the overall management plan for the property and will be elaborated as part of the management planning process. It also notes that a principle that no buildings will be reconstructed before their intended use is clear has been adopted, in order to avoid mistakes that have been made in the past with previous reconstructions.  The State Party reports that some buildings already rehabilitated have now been assigned appropriate uses such a dance studio for royal dance and an artisanal village. 

The mission noted the problems associated with the fact that many of the already rehabilitated spaces remained empty, which pose risks in the short, medium, and long term for the good maintenance and conservation of the buildings; it considered it a positive development that uses are being found for these buildings. They underscored that the policy requested by the World Heritage Committee had not yet been elaborated but that the Ministry of Culture, Literacy, Crafts, and Tourism had provided assurances the policy will be formulated. It considers that the finalization of a full reconstruction policy is crucial for the long-term conservation of the property. 

c)  Updating of the Management Plan

The State Party reports that the updating of the management plan will take place in February of 2013 and is part of the work plan developed by the Ministry of Culture, Literacy, Crafts, and Tourism for the property. The final plan is expected to incorporate both the disaster risk management plan and the reconstruction policy referred to in points a) and b) above.  The report further states that the Management Council of the property meets regularly to take decisions and evaluate management issues including the programme of activities and budget. 

The mission was made aware of the fact that the updating of the management plan is currently underway.  It noted that the property has gone through two cycles of management plans since its inscription (1999 – 2005 and 2007 – 2012). It considered that while there have been some improvements in management, there have been no formal evaluations of the most recent plan.  For this reason, the mission team worked together with the staff of the property in order to assess implementation of the plan. The result of this informal evaluation found that that while the objective related to progressive improvement of the state of conservation of the property had been partially achieved, other objectives related to better management, capacity building and increasing the knowledge of the property had seen little improvement.

The mission noted that there are a number of management issues at the property in need of improvement including the need for more and better trained staff in all aspects of management, conservation, restoration, and maintenance and for a clear administrative framework to allow the site manager and staff to be able to carry out the necessary conservation and maintenance measures.  It further underscored the importance of finalising the update of the management plan and to consider in this process the need for a new overall vision for the property, one that looks at the property, not only as a museum, but as part of the socio-cultural life of the local community. Finally, the management plan should include provisions for regular evaluations in order to assess the effectiveness of management actions and to allow for change where necessary. 

Another aspect noted for the mission is the loss of institutional memory that occurred with the recent change in the site manager. The lack of available information hindered the ability of the mission to understand which conservation works had been carried out since 2007 and to assess their appropriateness and effectiveness. It is essential that proper documentation of all conservation and management activities is carried out so that information is not lost when staff is changed. The mission also found that the Management Council was also not fully functional due to this loss of institutional memory.  There was a further concern about the financial resources available to meet the conservation needs of the property.  While there has been funding for individual projects, financial resources and sufficient staff have to be secured to ensure regular conservation and maintenance works. 

d)  General State of Conservation of the Property

The State Party notes that there are still a number of walls that remain to be reconstructed at the perimeter of the property, which would aid in securing the site. It further reports on a number of activities related to both the preventive conservation and restoration of the various buildings and tombs that make up the property, as well as promotional activities that have taken place. 

The mission found that the current state of conservation in terms of stabilization of the component parts of the property had improved since 2007, with approximately 85% of the existing walls now intervened. It found, however, that there was a progressive degradation, due to lack of maintenance, at some of the already restored areas that are not used by the museum.  It also expressed its concern that a proper inventory and documentation of restoration work is lacking. This makes it difficult to evaluate whether necessary attention has been given in restoration works to the authenticity and integrity of the property. It emphasized that it is fundamental that all restoration work be done with sufficient, detailed documentation to ensure that restorations do not compromise the conditions of authenticity and integrity, and that an inventory of all component parts of the property is done to have the adequate baseline data for monitoring and evaluation.

In regard to the effects from the fires of 2009 and 2012, the mission found that the damage from the 2009 fire had largely been fixed and the buildings restored. Damage from the 2012 fire, particularly at Houégbadja Palace, was still evident. However, the mission did not consider that the 2012 fire had a serious impact the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. 

e)  Other Conservation Issues

The mission noted that while the State Party had put in place a buffer zone and regulations to govern it, there had been several cases where these regulations had not been enforced and that encroachment on the buffer zone can be seen.  It recommended that the State Party take the necessary measures to enforce the regulations to control encroachment on the buffer zone.  The mission further noted the need for better interpretation and presentation at the property as well as for strengthening of the relationships with the local community. 

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the progress that has been made by the State Party in the aftermath of the fires of 2009 and 2012.  They also note, however, that as of the drafting of this State of Conservation report, neither the Disaster Risk Management Plan, nor the Reconstruction Policy has been completed as requested by the 36th session of the World Heritage Committee.  They further note that the updating of the management plan has not yet been completed.  The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies urge the State Party to finalize these documents at the earliest opportunity.

The World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies consider that the integration of the Disaster Risk Management Plan and the Reconstruction Policy into the larger Management Plan is a positive approach. They also note that the updated Management Plan should consider a new vision for the property, and define provisions for a clearer administrative and human resource framework as well as to secure the financial resources to be able to implement the various plans and policies when they come into force. They also emphasize the need for a proper inventory of all component parts of the property and for proper documentation of the restoration process. This documentation should be made available for the future management of the property. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2013
37 COM 7B.36
Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin) (C 323 bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.40 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Takes note of the information provided by the State Party concerning progress on the updating of the Management Plan and the development of a Disaster Risk Management Plan and a Reconstruction Policy;

4.  Reiterates its request to the State Party to prioritise the development of a Disaster Risk Management Plan and a Reconstruction Policy and to finalize the updating of the management plan, including the development of a new overall vision for the property beyond that of its function as a museum, and to include clearer administrative, human and financial resource frameworks;

5.  Urges the State Party to reinforce its efforts to ensure proper conservation and maintenance at the property, especially in regard to reducing the risk of fires and other hazards;

6.  Also urges the State Party to undertake a through inventory of all of the buildings within the property and to ensure proper documentation before and after undertaking future restoration works;

7.  Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2014 , an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above recommendations for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.

Draft Decision:  37 COM 7B.36

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.40, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Takes note of the information provided by the State Party concerning progress on the updating of the Management Plan and the development of a Disaster Risk Management Plan and a Reconstruction Policy;

4.  Reiterates its request to the State Party to prioritise the development of a Disaster Risk Management Plan and a Reconstruction Policy and to finalize the updating of the management plan, including the development of a new overall vision for the property beyond that of its function as a museum, and to include clearer administrative, human and financial resource frameworks;

5.  Urges the State Party to reinforce its efforts to ensure proper conservation and maintenance at the property, especially in regard to reducing the risk of fires and other hazards;

6.  Also urges the State Party to undertake a through inventory of all of the buildings within the property and to ensure proper documentation before and after undertaking future restoration works;

7.  Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2014, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above recommendations for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014. 

 

Report year: 2013
Benin
Date of Inscription: 1985
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Danger List (dates): 1985-2007
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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