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Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin) (C 323bis)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1985
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/323/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 118,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/323/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: USD 450,000 from the Government of Japan and from the Riksantikvaren (Norwegian Cultural Heritage Directorate)
Previous monitoring missions
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
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Absence of a national legislative mechanism for the protection of cultural heritage (issue resolved)
- Major deterioration of almost 50% of the earthen structural components (issue resolved)
- Lack of presentation and interpretation at the site (issue resolved)
- Lack and loss of documentation on the site (issue resolved)
- Lack of sharing of knowledge between site managers and among authorities (issue resolved)
- Need to distinguish between the site museum and the World Heritage site (issue resolved)
- No conservation or safeguarding measures have been undertaken at the site following the 2012 fire
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/323/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015
On 27 February 2015, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whe.unesco.org/en/list/323/documents/. This report contains the following information:
- A new fire occurred on 14 January 2015 and destroyed the roofs of eight of the ten buildings/cases that make up the property. Indications point to the fire being started by children practicing traditional rat hunting in the immediate vicinity of the property. The fire spread rapidly due to the presence of high grass around the property, indicating a lack of maintenance during the dry season. The African Heritage School (AHS), sent a mission to evaluate the damage and to prepare a report that was sent to the World Heritage Centre. The Centre organized on 18 February 2015 a teleconference for technical consultation concerning the review and conservation perspectives of the property, involving AHS, the African World Heritage Fund, CRAterre and the Mayor of Albi. This meeting noted that the fire was the result of a governance issue, of organization and implementation of monitoring, coordination and involvement mechanisms of the different actors in the management of the property.
- Some human activity (agriculture, hunting, tree felling) has developed and represents threats to the property, as does the presence of termites.
- Resources generated by visits have diminished due to a reduction in the number of visitors, linked to several factors, among which the Ebola virus that was rife in the region.
- The walls built in accordance with the plan for the management, conservation and enhancement of the property, have helped to preserve the integrity of the areas and avoid frequent infiltration.
- The protection and rehabilitation work of the property, ongoing for several years, has continued to progress with financial support from the town of Albi, France.
- An environmental study was carried out with funding provided by the British research programme “Science and Heritage”. It reported that the levels of ozone and iron corrosivity were extremely high at the property, while the level of nitrogen dioxide was acceptable and the level of sulfur dioxide low.
- The Ministry of Culture has provided the property with various materials and equipment.
- Furthermore, the State Party has failed to provide information on progress in the preparation of a risk management plan for which it received support from the African World Heritage Fund in 2013. It also received approval for international assistance from the World Heritage Fund in 2014 to evaluate its management and conservation plan. This work has not yet begun.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
This new fire that occurred at the property in January 2015, is very worrying, all the more so as it is the third fire to occur, with the previous fire in 2012. Measures had been advocated and established to avoid such catastrophes in the future. A dysfunction appears to remain. It is essential to find an alternative sustainable solution without delay. The teleconference for technical consultation organized by the World Heritage Centre in February 2015 is beneficial because it is part of this dynamic. The recommendations issued at this meeting should lead to an operational result. The State Party must also finalize the disaster risk management plan and make the necessary updating of its management and conservation plan as soon as possible.
Moreover, the development of human activity around the property also constitutes a concern because of the pressure it causes. Measures must be undertaken to limit this tendency.
The reduction in the number of visitors to the site is also regrettable as it reflects a reduction of its financial capacities, already weak. Furthermore, the work accomplished in the framework of the plan for the management, conservation and enhancement of the property is of great use as it contributes towards conserving the integrity of the property, and the town of Albi should be encouraged to continue its support. The environmental study at the property constitutes a positive progress in the improvement of the knowledge of the site, and the British research programme that financed it should be encouraged to continue its support so as to resolve the issues raised.
It is therefore recommended that the World Heritage Committee take note of the efforts undertaken by the State Party in the implementation of the plan for the management, conservation and enhancement of the property. It is also recommended that the Committee express its great concern following the fire that has destroyed the roofs of the property and strongly urge the State Party to increase its efforts to improve the governance, organization and implementation of monitoring, coordination and involvement mechanisms of the different actors in the general management of the property, and in particular in the prevention of catastrophes. Finally, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the conservation of the property, in particular the vulnerability of the roofs of the huts and propose priority sustainable conservation and protection measures.
Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.37
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.46, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
- Expresses its great concern following the fire that destroyed the roofs of eight of the ten huts that comprise the property and considers that this catastrophe represents a threat to the integrity of the property;
- Takes note of the progress achieved by the State Party in the implementation of the plan for the management, conservation and enhancement of the property involving protection and rehabilitation work to reinforce the integrity of the areas and avoid frequent infiltrations; thanks the partners for their support and encourages them to continue and strengthen their support;
- Strongly urges the State Party to increase efforts to improve the governance, organization and implementation of the monitoring, coordination and involvement mechanisms of the different parties concerned in the general management of the property, and in particular in the prevention of catastrophes;
- Requests the State Party to finalize, without delay, the risk management plan, proceed with the revision of its plan for the management, conservation and enhancement of the property, and submit these documents to the World Heritage Centre for examination by the Advisory Bodies;
- Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the state of conservation of the property, in particular the vulnerability of the roofs of the huts and to propose priority measures for the prevention of fire risks, sustainable conservation and protection;
- Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an updated report including a 1-page summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above points, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.