Old City of Sana'a (Yemen) (C 385)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1986
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 101,997
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: 1988: USD 374,800, UNDP/UNESCO project in support of local staff training and fund-raising. 2004-2006: USD 60,000 for the Inventory of the historic city (Italian Funds-in-Trust)
Previous monitoring missions
1998, 1999, 2003: World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2003 to 2005, and 2010: World Heritage Centre and experts missions
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Modern constructions and uncontrolled expansion of commercial activities (issue resolved)
- Lack of a Safeguarding Plan (issue resolved)
- Fly-over bridge project (issue resolved)
- Uncontrolled vertical and horizontal additions
- Use of inappropriate building materials and techniques
- Densification of the historic fabric through occupation of green areas
- Functional decay of the residential neighborhoods.
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014
The State Party submitted a report on 19 January 2014, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/documents. In 2013, due to the upheaval in the country, its report was submitted late and presented orally to the Committee. Both reports underscore the dire economic and social crises that have afflicted the country since January 2011 but also suggest some progress, particularly since the end of 2012. Due to the unstable situation within Yemen, it has not yet been possible to organise the foreseen joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.
In response to the World Heritage Committee’s specific requests, the State Party has reported in both reports as follows:
- Support of the International Community: Funds are urgently needed to implement conservation measures and to re-structure the management of the property. Although a GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation) project has been established to support the General Organisation for the Preservation of the Historic Cities of Yemen (GOHPCY)’s capacity building, there has been no other external support. The State Party expresses a wish that the Committee might re-iterate its call to the international community to offer support.
- Piped water and Sewage project: A major project for rehabilitating the water and sewage network for Sana’a is being progressed by the Sana’a Secretariat without GOPHCY’s involvement and expresses concern over its possible effects on the property. On 9 February 2014, GOPHCY wrote to the World Heritage Centre expressing worries and underlining that the project has been already tendered. In its reply, the World Heritage Centre asked the State Party to provide the relevant documents and plans as per the provisions of paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, in order to assist GOPHCY in seeking appropriate solutions to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property is fully preserved, and called on the National Water and Sewerage Agency to collaborate with GOPHCY in order to include in the infrastructure project provisions regarding appropriate mitigation measures.
- Law of Protection of historic sites, monuments, cities and their urban and cultural heritage: A law on the Protection of historic sites, monuments, cities and their urban and cultural heritage was officially adopted in August 2013. Bylaw regulations are prepared and standards, measurements and guidelines for the maintenance, restoration and rehabilitation of the historic cities, sites and buildings are also being drafted.
The State Party also reports on the following:
- A Prime Minister’s Decree was issued in 2013 for the endorsement of the urgent executive plan for Sana’a;
- A rapid assessment of 70% of the historic building stock has been carried out by GOPHCY as a basis for urgent future interventions;
- A one year moratorium on new construction within the property and on issuing any new contracts has been agreed;
- A manual of preservation law is being elaborated with the support of GIZ;
- Support has been requested from the UNESCO Doha office for the revision of the GOPHCY cultural heritage strategy.
In March 2014, the State Party submitted an International Assistance Request to undertake the necessary field surveys and cartography in view of the preparation of the property’s Conservation Plan. In addition, ICCROM reports that it is working with the State Party on building long-term national capacity for conservation professionals through university programmes.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
In spite of the extreme conditions that have prevailed over the past three years, some positive measures have been initiated and there has been a notable achievement in terms of the approval of a new Heritage Law and the Prime Minister’s Decree for the endorsement of the urgent executive plan for Sana’a and the one year moratorium on new construction within the property and on issuing any new contracts.
The support of GIZ has been instrumental for capacity building with GOPHCY, but the urgent need for further external support for conservation and for re-structuring the management of the property in order to allow more proactive work remains. The current project to rehabilitate water and sewage pipes for the city is clearly much needed to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants. It is nevertheless noted that this project appears to be implemented by the National Water and Sewerage Agency without the involvement of GOPHCY and without the appropriate risk mitigation measures and conservation-friendly approaches, and has already been tendered. This means that technical advice on the potential impacts of the project on structures of individual buildings and on embedded archaeology around the buildings appears currently not to be in place, and advice on how the project could be undertaken to minimise adverse impacts on cultural heritage and on the overall attributes of OUV is not provided. There is an urgent need for the management of the project to be re-structured to allow adequate technical advice from cultural heritage professionals. As no detailed plans have so far been supplied, these should be submitted at the earliest opportunity and a Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment should be undertaken before any detailed contracts are defined or let or any work commences.
Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7B.7
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.58, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
- Acknowledges the continuing vulnerability of the property as a result of the extreme conditions that have prevailed in Sana’s over the past four years;
- Nonetheless welcomes the positive progress that has been possible and in particular the adoption of a new law in August 2013 on the protection of historic sites, monuments, cities and their urban and cultural heritage; the Prime Minister’s Decree for the endorsement of the urgent executive plan for Sana’a; the one year moratorium on new construction within the property and on issuing any new contracts; and notes the submission of an International Assistance Request to develop a Conservation Plan for the property;
- Also welcomes the support of the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for capacity building work with the General Organisation for the Preservation of the Historic Cities of Yemen (GOHPCY); but acknowledges the urgent need of further resources to implement conservation measures and to re-structure the management of the property;
- Reiterates its call to the international community to support the State Party, in co-operation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, in any way possible for priority conservation, management measures and capacity building programmes;
- Expresses its concern at the apparent lack of engagement of GOPHCY in the major project to rehabilitate the water and sewage system being developed by the Sana’s Secretariat and on the potential negative structural impacts that this project could have on individual buildings and on archaeology;
- Requests the State Party, as a matter of urgency to supply full details of this project, including the Heritage Impact Assessment and appropriate risk mitigation measures, to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before any work commences; and recommends that GOPHCY is fully integrated into the structure of this project;
- Also reiterates its request to the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to evaluate the state of conservation of the property and identify measures needed to reverse the decay and ensure the conservation and protection of the property, as soon as the security situation allows;
- Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.