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Aksum

Ethiopia
Factors affecting the property in 2016*
  • Housing
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Water (rain/water table)
  • Other Threats:

    Structural instability of Stele 3

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Insufficient delimitation of this serial property
  • Lack of conservation and management plans
  • Lack of appropriate urban planning and building regulations
  • Urban encroachment and inappropriate new developments
  • Rising water level / seepage
  • Structural instability of Stele III
  • Housing
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2016

Total amount provided: USD 5.07 million by the Italian Funds-in-Trust for the “Aksum Archaeological Site Improvement Project: Preparatory studies for the reinstallation of the Obelisk and capacity building for archaeological conservation - Phase 1”, "Reinstallation of the Obelisk - Phase 2” and “Consolidation of Stele III”.

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2016
Requests approved: 1 (from 1996-1996)
Total amount approved : 2,000 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 28 January 2016, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/documents/, outlining progress made in relation to the requests of the Committee:

  • The State Party has reiterated its commitment to finance the Consolidation Project for Stele III, and to review the technical and financial feasibility of the project (including seeking expert advice about the rising water table inside the Tomb of the Brick Arches) before proceeding with works in 2016;
  • Work has ceased on the construction of the Church Museum, but further agreement has been reached with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church authorities to improve the façade design based on the recommendations of the joint UNESCO/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission in 2013;
  • The Management Plan for Aksum World Heritage property will be presented to relevant stakeholders for validation in 2016;
  • The Thematic Master Plan which has been prepared for Aksum has been endorsed by the regional government and submitted for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  • The boundary delineation of the property has been finalized and the draft map of the boundary has been included in the law that protects the site and had been approved by the Council of Ministers in August 2015. The State Party has advised that since all the important attributes and features of the property have been included in the official boundary of the property, a request for a minor boundary modification is no longer required;
  • The Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project (ESTDP) has been working closely with the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) during planning and implementation of site management and conservation until the project concluded in December 2015. ESTDP programmes included “destination development”, “capacity building”, “small scale restoration” and “community engagement”.

An ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property took place in February 2016 (mission report available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/documents). 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2016

The progress made by the State Party is acknowledged. The 2015 ICOMOS mission report has provided additional observations and analysis regarding a number of the matters that affect the state of conservation of the property.

The unfinished state of the Church Museum continues to have a temporary, but highly negative, impact on the setting and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The Church collections are in a perilous state of conservation. Details of the façade modification should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies and the Church Museum project should be completed as soon as possible. Investigation is required regarding archaeological features that were reported as being discovered during the Church Museum building works.

The boundaries of the property and buffer zone have been formalized through the gazetting of Regulation 246/2015. Detailed maps are required with the physical boundaries of the property and its buffer zone clearly defined. These boundaries do not respond to critical view lines and the continued built fabric as well as the intangible features of the Church in the property.

The gazetting of the Aksum World Heritage Reserve Area Designation, Regulation 346/2015, will contribute to the conservation and management of the property but should be implemented rapidly. This Regulation has addressed in principle the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission regarding the protection of critical viewpoints. However, development guidelines, which include restoration and adaptive reuse, are urgently needed for the property and buffer zone as new construction is affecting the setting and OUV of the property.

The completion of the Management Plan for the property remains a matter of great priority and urgency. Once finalized, the draft Management Plan should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies for review in conjunction with the Thematic Master Plan.

The Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project (ESTDP) was broadly in line with the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme. The designs of the ESTDP interventions should not be applied to other areas of the property such as the Church Compound as they are unsuited to these contexts.

Little progress has been made in either planning the consolidation of Stela III or the investigation of the water problems in the Tomb of the Brick Arches. The 2015 ICOMOS mission identified further problems with rainwater ingress and structural weakness at the Mausoleum, which further compounds the problems faced at the main Stela Field. Any proposal that requires excavation in or around the Tomb of the Brick Arches should not be undertaken and more cautious options should be pursued, following expert advice.

A number of inappropriate developments are underway in the property and the buffer zone and there are a number of proposals, such as landscaping the Church Compound, demolishing the building at the entrance of the Stelae Field and constructing a new entrance building. The State Party should submit details of all such prospective projects to the World Heritage Centre in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

Lastly, upon completion of the Management Plan, it is also recommended that the State Party envisage training for relevant personnel on the requirements of the World Heritage Convention, of the Operational Guidelines and of the Management Plan for Aksum itself.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2016
40 COM 7B.10
Aksum (Ethiopia) (C 15)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.39, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Congratulates the State Party on the progress made in protecting, conserving and managing the property in accordance with the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  4. Acknowledges the achievements of the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project (ESTDP), broadly in line with the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme, but notes that the designs of the ESTDP interventions should not be applied to other areas of the property;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit details of the façade modification for the Church Museum to the World Heritage Centre for review; to expedite the completion of the Church Museum project, including the conservation of the collections, as soon as possible, and to investigate the archaeological features that were reported as being discovered during the Church Museum building works, and advise the World Heritage Centre accordingly;
  6. Also requests the State Party to finalize and submit the draft Management Plan for Aksum to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review in conjunction with the Thematic Master Plan;
  7. Commends the State Party for gazetting the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, and further requests the State Party to submit the detailed maps of the physical boundaries of the property and its buffer zone to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies updated on the consolidation project for the reinforcement of the foundation of Stela III and the investigation of the causes of the rising water level in the Tomb of the Brick Arches, to continue to seek expert specialist advice, to avoid any proposal that requires excavation in or around the Tomb of the Brick Arches, and to pursue more cautious options;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre details of all current and potential developments within the property and the buffer zone, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Encourages the State Party to instigate training for relevant personnel on the requirements of the Convention, the Operational Guidelines and the Management Plan for Aksum, once finalized;
  11. Also encourages the State Party to continue to implement the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission and to implement the additional recommendations of the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
Draft Decision: 40 COM 7B.10

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.39, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Congratulates the State Party on the progress made in protecting, conserving and managing the property in accordance with the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  4. Acknowledges the achievements of the Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Development Project (ESTDP), broadly in line with the World Heritage Sustainable Tourism Programme, but notes that the designs of the ESTDP interventions should not be applied to other areas of the property;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit details of the façade modification for the Church Museum to the World Heritage Centre for review; to expedite the completion of the Church Museum project, including the conservation of the collections, as soon as possible, and to investigate the archaeological features that were reported as being discovered during the Church Museum building works, and advise the World Heritage Centre accordingly;
  6. Also requests the State Party to finalize and submit the draft Management Plan for Aksum to the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for review in conjunction with the Thematic Master Plan;
  7. Commends the State Party for gazetting the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, and further requests the State Party to submit the detailed maps of the physical boundaries of the property and its buffer zone to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies updated on the consolidation project for the reinforcement of the foundation of Stela III and the investigation of the causes of the rising water level in the Tomb of the Brick Arches, to continue to seek expert specialist advice, to avoid any proposal that requires excavation in or around the Tomb of the Brick Arches, and to pursue more cautious options;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre details of all current and potential developments within the property and the buffer zone, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  10. Encourages the State Party to instigate training for relevant personnel on the requirements of the Convention, the Operational Guidelines and the Management Plan for Aksum, once finalized;
  11. Also encourages the State Party to continue to implement the recommendations of the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission and to implement the additional recommendations of the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
Report year: 2016
Ethiopia
Date of Inscription: 1980
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2016) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 40COM (2016)
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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