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Old City of Sana'a

Yemen
Factors affecting the property in 2015*
  • Civil unrest
  • Housing
  • Land conversion
  • Management activities
  • Other Threats:

    Functional decay of the residential neighborhoods

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
  • Continuing vulnerability of the property, as a result of extreme conditions since 2011
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2015

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)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 6 (from 1990-2014)
Total amount approved : 101,997 USD
Missions to the property until 2015**

1998, 1999, 2003: World Heritage Centre monitoring missions; 2003 to 2005, and 2010: World Heritage Centre and experts missions

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 31 January 2015, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/documents/.

The State Party reports that Yemen continues to suffer significant adverse political, socio-economic and security conditions, which have worsened in early 2015. These conditions have compromised institutional frameworks, causing conservation and development activity to cease.

The State Party reports that some steps have been taken to sustain cultural heritage protection, through the Ministry of Culture, the General Organisation for the Preservation of Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY), in collaboration with the German Agency for International Corporation (GIZ), including:

  • Preparation of a draft National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020. An Action Plan will be developed during 2015 to implement the strategic objectives of the Strategy;
  • Planning for a stakeholder workshop, which was postponed owing to the security situation; and
  • Organization of meetings and workshops with community members to raise awareness and discuss conservation issues.

The State Party confirms its support for the development of a Conservation Plan, using USD 29,700 made available from the World Heritage Fund, but advises that available resources are inadequate and that international experts cannot enter Yemen at present.

A project initiated in conjunction with GIZ to support GOPHCY with capacity building was terminated in December 2014. This project developed important initiatives including the preparation of the National Strategy and the drafting of regulations and guidelines for World Heritage Sites, and preparation of a brochure about inappropriate behaviour in the Old City of Sana’a.

The State Party expresses concern about the level of engagement and capacity of GOPHCY and the barrier represented by the inability of international experts to visit Yemen.

It has not provided any detail about the proposed water and sewerage rehabilitation project, but advises that the project has been postponed and offered assurances that the requested documents will be provided by the Ministry of Culture, GOPHCY and the Sana’a Secretariat.

The proposed joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission has been prevented by the security situation in Yemen.

The State Party has not yet started implementing the International Assistance Request “Preparation of the conservation plan – Old City of Sana’a (I phase inventory update)” (IA2014-2665) because of the current situation but intends to initiate it as soon as possible with local resources.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

For some time, the integrity of the property has been eroding, as a result of contemporary social changes and inappropriate development. The incremental progressive impact has recently been masked by the more-prominent impact of worsening political, socio-economic and security conditions. In combination, incremental change and deteriorating security present a significant threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property.

More-effective management provisions need to be established, including preparation of the Conservation Plan which has been previously recommended by the Committee and supported through International Assistance funding. This Conservation Plan should build upon existing documentation including The Inventory of the Historic City of Sana'a: a Tool for Urban Conservation (2008). It should also be incorporated within the Action Plan being prepared to implement the new National Strategy (see below).

The preparation of the draft: National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020 is very welcome. It is important that the Action Plan arising from the strategy specifically address this property and include provisions for fostering community support and awareness, and international involvement in heritage management, as well as identification of physical conservation requirements.

It is acknowledged that the water and sewerage system requires rehabilitation and that this important work to underpin the infrastructure of the property should receive priority. However, the project should only proceed following the preparation of a thorough Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) and identification of appropriate risk mitigation measures. It is highly desirable that GOPHCY become directly involved in this project, once it is recommenced, so as to ensure that it is implemented in a manner that is consistent with cultural heritage values of the property.

The property would benefit from greater involvement of GOPHCY and improved capacity building. Further involvement from international experts is also desirable, but currently impossible.

Support from GIZ has made a significant contribution to heritage management of the Old City of Sana’a and other World Heritage properties in Yemen. The contribution from GIZ warrants acknowledgement, encouragement and augmentation with support from the international community, although this will necessarily depend on the evolving security situation.

Owing to the unstable situation in Yemen, it has not been possible to organize the recommended joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission. However, the State Party has reiterated its support for such a mission, which should be arranged at the earliest possible time.

Finally, a report on the state of conservation of the property should be requested for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session, in order to assess the evolution of the situation in the country and whether the property is facing an ascertained or potential danger.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7B.59
Old City of Sana’a (Yemen) (C 385)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.58, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Notes with great concern that the Old City of Sana’a continues to be vulnerable owing to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, in combination with ongoing social change, threats of inappropriate development and continuing lack of organisational support and resources for both heritage management initiatives and physical conservation projects;
  4. Commends the State Party for the preparation of the draft ‘National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020’ and the proposal for a complementary Action Plan to be developed during 2015;
  5. Requests the State Party to ensure that the National Strategy Action Plan addresses the current situation of the Old City of Sana’a and includes provisions for completion of the proposed Conservation Plan, cultural Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the proposed water and sewerage rehabilitation project, building conservation, local community awareness and a strategy for attracting international support;
  6. Expresses its appreciation for the previous support to the Old City of Sana’a by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), and expresses its regret at the termination of the capacity building project for the Old City of Sana’a in December 2014;
  7. Encourages the State Party to seek further international assistance, specifically directed at capacity building for the General Organisation for the Preservation of Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY), so that it may re-engage and respond to the growing conservation needs of the Old City of Sana’a and other World Heritage properties in Yemen;
  8. Also requests that the State Party maintain a moratorium on new development or new construction, pending completion of the proposed Conservation Plan and, where appropriate, project-specific heritage impact assessments;
  9. Further requests that prior to proceeding with the proposed rehabilitation of the water and sewerage project, the State party prepare a HIA, which includes assessment of impacts on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in line with the relevant ICOMOS guidelines and to submit a copy of the HIA to the World Heritage Centre prior to making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Requests furthermore the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to advise on the proposal for a complementary Action Plan for the National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020’ to be developed during 2015;
  11. Reiterates its previous 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, as soon as the security situation in Yemen improves;
  12. Also decides to inscribe the old city of Sana’a, Yemen, on the World Heritage List in Danger;
  13. Also requests the State Party, as soon as it is feasible and in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a set of corrective measures and a timeframe for their implementation, as well as a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  14. 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;
  15. Requests moreover that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the steps taken to implement the recommendations above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
39 COM 8C.1
Update of the List of the World Heritage in Danger

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (WHC-15/39.COM/7B and WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add) and the proposals for inscription of properties on the World Heritage List (WHC-15/39.COM/8B and WHC-15/39.COM/8B.Add),
  2. Decides to inscribe the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger:
  • Iraq, Hatra (Decision 39 COM 7B.51)
  • Yemen, Old City of Sana’a (Decision 39 COM 7B.59)
  • Yemen, Old Walled City of Shibam (Decision 39 COM 7B.60)
Draft Decision: 39 COM 7B.59

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.58, adopted at its 38th session (Doha, 2014),
  3. Notes with great concern that the Old City of Sana’a continues to be vulnerable owing to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, in combination with ongoing social change, threats of inappropriate development and continuing lack of organisational support and resources for both heritage management initiatives and physical conservation projects;
  4. Commends the State Party for the preparation of the draft ‘National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020’ and the proposal for a complementary Action Plan to be developed during 2015;
  5. Requests the State Party to ensure that the National Strategy Action Plan addresses the current situation of the Old City of Sana’a and includes provisions for completion of the proposed Conservation Plan, cultural Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the proposed water and sewerage rehabilitation project, building conservation, local community awareness and a strategy for attracting international support;
  6. Expresses its appreciation for the previous support to the Old City of Sana’a by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), and expresses its regret at the termination of the capacity building project for the Old City of Sana’a in December 2014;
  7. Encourages the State Party to seek further international assistance, specifically directed at capacity building for the General Organisation for the Preservation of Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY), so that it may re-engage and respond to the growing conservation needs of the Old City of Sana’a and other World Heritage properties in Yemen;
  8. Also requests that the State Party maintain a moratorium on new development or new construction, pending completion of the proposed Conservation Plan and, where appropriate, project-specific heritage impact assessments;
  9. Further requests that prior to proceeding with the proposed rehabilitation of the water and sewerage project, the State party prepare a HIA, which includes assessment of impacts on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in line with the relevant ICOMOS guidelines and to submit a copy of the HIA to the World Heritage Centre prior to making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Requests furthermore the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to advise on the proposal for a complementary Action Plan for the National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020’ to be developed during 2015;
  11. Reiterates its previous 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, as soon as the security situation in Yemen improves;
  12. Reiterates its request of 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;
  13. Requests moreover that the State Party submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the steps taken to implement the recommendations above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016, with a view to considering, in the case of confirmation of the ascertained or potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2015
Yemen
Date of Inscription: 1986
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)(v)(vi)
Danger List (dates): 2015-present
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 39COM (2015)
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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