1.         Site of Palmyra (Syrian Arab Republic) (C 23bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2013-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Destruction as well as ascertained and potential threats consequent to the armed conflict in Syria started in March 2011

Corrective measures identified

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/23/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1989-2005)
Total amount approved: USD 81,250
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/23/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided: USD 100 000 by the Flemish Government, 18 560 USD from the UNESCO Emergency Fund  

Total amount provided to the six Syrian World Heritage properties: 2.46 million Euros by the European Union (for World Heritage, movable and intangible heritage); USD200,000 by the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Bahrain (for cultural heritage under conflict); USD170,000 by the Flemish Government (for World Heritage, movable and intangible heritage); 63,000 Euros by the Government of Austria (for World Heritage, movable and intangible heritage)

Previous monitoring missions

April 2016: World Heritage Centre Rapid Assessment mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Before the conflict:

Since March 2011:

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/23/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

On 18 January 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report for the six Syrian World Heritage properties, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/23/documents/.

The State Party reports that, in addition to the damage assessment and documentation activities using advanced technology reported in May 2016, the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) implemented emergency measures for the museum collections. With the financial support of UNESCO and in collaboration with a Polish team of restorers, the DGAM cleaned the museum, sorted debris to gather the remaining fragments, and transported them to its laboratories in Damascus, including the Lion Statue of Athena, in order to prevent looting and in view of future restoration. The report also indicates that the DGAM developed a list of emergency and short-term actions with an estimated budget, and started gathering documentation for the minor boundary modification proposal and related protection measures. On 26 December 2016, the Governorate of Homs donated a land adjacent to the Palmyra museum in view of a potential extension to the building. 

Between 11 December 2016 and 2 March 2017, Palmyra was occupied again by extremist armed groups, who destroyed the Tetrapylon and parts of the theatre’s proscenium and proscenium wall, as confirmed by the satellite images provided by UNITAR/UNOSAT, and later by the DGAM. The site has now been under the control of the State Party since 2 March 2017.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

See General Decision 41 COM 50 of this Document on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic.

The evacuation of the Palmyra Museum collection to Damascus and the damage assessment in the museum have been carried out from May to August 2016.

In the framework of the Technical Assistance Workshop organized by the World Heritage Centre in Beirut from 13 to 15 December 2016, UNESCO experts provided technical advice to the DGAM staff on the damages to the Citadel, the museum and the World Heritage site of Palmyra. In their report transmitted to the DGAM in March 2017 and available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/events/1386, the experts have made recommendations for the stabilization of damaged structures within and around the property and recommended to gather all documentation available to understand previous conservation works, to conduct a sound diagnosis for the remaining structures, to shore the Portico of the Temple of Bel, to remove the unstable upper stones of the Arch of Triumph. The options of potential restorations through anastylosis could only be envisaged in a second phase, following the inventory, removal, storage of debris and destroyed elements and their analysis, with the support of the international scientific community, when the security situation allows. 

The experts noted that although damages at the Citadel of Palmyra, which is outside the buffer zone, are extensive and visible, they do not affect its value within the Palmyra landscape. The destructions seem to result from the slipping of the structures on the unstable sloping bedrock of the monument, destabilized by the impact of fighting. The restoration of the Citadel would be a complex and costly project; however, the DGAM has the competencies to undertake it, given that the destruction mainly concerned towers that have been restored or rebuilt previously.

The experts also examined the damages at the Museum of Palmyra. Depending on the sound diagnosis of damages, on the scientific content and desired functional programme and budget available, they noted that several restoration options were conceivable.   

In the framework of the project entitled ‘Implementation of the World Heritage Committee Decisions for the Site of Palmyra’, the DGAM is preparing a proposal for a minor boundary modification l for the property.   

It is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to implement the recommendations of the UNESCO technical assistance workshop, as soon as the situation allows.

It is proposed to undertake a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the site to proceed with a comprehensive assessment of the state of conservation of the property as soon as the security situation allows.

General Decision on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic

The armed conflict in Syria started in March 2011 and has constantly escalated leading to significant violence and degradation of humanitarian conditions. It continues to inflict damage on the inscribed properties as well as on the 12 sites inscribed on the Tentative List. Sites continue to be damaged by shelling, street fighting, underground explosions, extensive illegal excavations, military use, construction violations, quarrying, in addition to intentional destructions and inappropriate use of archaeological sites by internally displaced populations. 

On 18 January 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/41COM/documents, with detailed information on the destruction and damage at the six World Heritage properties. This report represents an official statement from the Syrian authorities and collates available information from the branches of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and from the local communities up to 31 December 2016. The State Party notes that as ground access in Syria for heritage experts is limited the full extent of the damage to World Heritage properties cannot be assessed in detail. Therefore, the report do not provide first-hand information on all sites, and thus do not allow a full understanding of the extent of damage to the properties.

The State Party reported on the actions carried out by the DGAM, despite the difficult working conditions, to monitor the World Heritage properties and cultural heritage in general, assess damages, undertake emergency conservation and risk mitigation actions whenever possible, and inventory built and movable heritage. The report also stressed the DGAM efforts in maintaining salaries for its staff in the inaccessible regions (Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, Ancient City of Bosra), and highlighted the positive role played by local communities in some cases to safeguard heritage and limit illegal excavations.

On 9 April 2017, the State Party provided updated information on the conservation of the sites inscribed on the Tentative List, which indicates the following:

Activities undertaken by UNESCO

The UNESCO Office in Beirut undertook a Rapid Assessment mission to the Ancient City of Aleppo on 16-19 January 2017, together with the UN Resident Coordinator and the DGAM. The mission confirmed the extent of damages in the accessible areas of the property, as well as the state of educational institutions in the city and identified urgent and short term needs;

Activities undertaken by the Advisory Bodies



The armed conflict situation in Syria and its continued escalation has affected the six World Heritage properties and has substantially limited capacities to adequately sustain and protect their OUV. The properties have been increasingly threatened by ascertained and potential dangers, in particular the Ancient City of Aleppo, which has been extensively and increasingly destroyed, and which runs the risk of further irreversible destructions during the challenging recovery phase. From 11 December 2016 to 2 March 2017, Palmyra fell back under the control of extremist armed groups who inflicted additional invaluable damage to the property.

The illegal excavations across archaeological sites and tells in Syria are a major source for the illicit trafficking of cultural objects and are causing extensive and irreversible damages to those sites, many of which are on Syria’s Tentative List, as well as providing looted artifacts for sale in regional and international black markets.

It is recommended that the Committee commend the DGAM, heritage professionals in Syria and local communities who have made sustained efforts to protect cultural heritage and to monitor it closely.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will continue to support the State Party in the identification of the necessary corrective measures and in the development of a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), as soon as the situation allows.

It is important that humanitarian and security actions be done in coordination with cultural heritage stakeholders, to avoid further irreversible damages to the properties, and allow for undertaking first aid measures for its cultural heritage. Furthermore, it is recommended that systematic documentation of all damage incurred at the World Heritage properties be duly pursued, whenever the situation allows, and that the Committee reiterate its call to the State Party to safeguard damaged properties through minimal first aid interventions to prevent theft, further collapse and natural degradation, and refrain from undertaking other measures until the situation allows for the development of a comprehensive strategy and action plan that respond to international standards and high-quality scientific methods.

With regard to post-conflict interventions, it is recommended that the Committee call on the State Party to plan the future of the World Heritage properties according to international conservation charters and standards, in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies.

It is recommended that the Committee call for international and national heritage professionals to continue to unite for the safeguarding of Syria’s cultural heritage; and to further support its safeguarding through earmarked funds and to contributions to the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund.

Until conditions improve, it is also recommended that the Committee urge all parties associated with the conflict in Syria to refrain from any action that can further damage the heritage of the country, in particular World Heritage properties and all sites included on the Tentative List, and to fulfill their obligations under international law, and in particular the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 of March 2017, in part by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage including the evacuation of World Heritage properties used for military purposes, and the halting of all damages that result from targeting World Heritage properties. It is also recommended that the Committee reiterate its suggestion that the State Party consider ratifying the Second Protocol (1999) of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage during times of Armed Conflict.

It is further recommended that the Committee also call upon all parties associated with the conflict in Syria and the international community, in particular the neighbouring countries to Syria, to ensure effective measures for the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects, in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 2199.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7A.49

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7A.12, 39 COM 7A.36 and 40 COM 7A.17, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014), 39th (Bonn, 2015) and 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) sessions respectively,
  3. Taking into account Decision 41 COM 7A.50 on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic,
  4. Condemns the additional deliberate acts of destructions at the property and deplores the considerable damage to the attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
  5. Encourages the State Party to implement the recommendations of the UNESCO technical assistance workshop, and in particular:
    1. Gather all documentation available to understand previous restoration works carried out at the property,
    2. Conduct a sound structural diagnosis for the remaining structures,
    3. Shore the Portico of the Temple of Bel and remove the unstable upper stones at the Arch of Triumph according to structural evaluations;
  6. Reiterates its request to the State Party to limit restoration works to first aid interventions until the security situation improves and allows conducting detailed studies and extensive field work, and also discussions on defining optimal approaches;
  7. Requests the State Party to invite of a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to proceed to a comprehensive assessment of 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;
  8. Calls on all UNESCO Member States to support emergency safeguarding measures, including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund;
  9. Notes with satisfaction that the State Party is preparing minor boundary modification proposal, and encourages it to submit the proposal by 1 February 2018, for review by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018;
  10. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, 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;
  11. Decides to retain Site of Palmyra (Syrian Arab Republic) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7A.50

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 7A.12, 39 COM 7A.36 and 40 COM 7A.17, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014), 39th (Bonn, 2015) and 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) sessions respectively,
  3. Deplores the conflict situation prevailing in the country, the loss of human life and the degradation of humanitarian conditions;
  4. Taking note of the reports provided by the State Party regarding the state of conservation of the six Syrian World Heritage properties and of the sites inscribed on the Syrian Tentative List, commends the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and all the heritage professionals and the local communities in Syria who are working on monitoring and protecting cultural heritage for their sustained efforts amidst extremely difficult conditions, but expresses its utmost concern at the damage occurred and the threats facing these properties and cultural heritage in general;
  5. Urges all parties associated with the situation in Syria to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to cultural heritage of the country and to fulfil their obligations under international law, and in particular the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 of March 2017, by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, including the halting of all damages that result from targeting World Heritage properties, sites included in the Tentative List and other cultural heritage sites;
  6. Also urges the State Party to adopt measures for the evacuation of World Heritage properties being used for military purposes;
  7. Further urges the State Party and the international community to include recovery actions within the properties to the overall humanitarian, security and peace building response;
  8. Urges furthermore the State Party to safeguard damaged properties through minimal first aid interventions to prevent theft, further collapse and natural degradation, and to refrain from undertaking conservation and restoration work until the situation allows, for the development of comprehensive conservation strategies and actions that respond to international standards in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  9. Requests the State Party to pursue the systematic documentation of all damage incurred by the World Heritage properties, whenever conditions allow, and to implement all possible risk mitigation measures, to inform on the development of the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and the identification of corrective measures for all six properties;
  10. Launches an appeal to all Member States of UNESCO to cooperate in fighting against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage coming from Syria as per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199 of February 2015, and in engaging in the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflict as per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 of March 2017, and reiterates its suggestion to the State Party to consider ratifying the Second Protocol (1999) of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage during times of Armed Conflict;
  11. Insists on the importance of ensuring that there be effective coordination of all efforts with a view to restoring, reconstructing, and conserving the cultural heritage of Syria with the effective participation of UNESCO ;
  12. Calls upon the international community to further support the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage through earmarked funds or through contribution to the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund;
  13. Also calls upon the international and national cultural heritage professionals to unite for the safeguarding of Syria’s cultural heritage, and pursue their ongoing initiatives in coordination with UNESCO;
  14. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the properties and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 8B.51

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/17/41.COM/8B.Add.2, WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B1.Add.2
  2. Approves the proposed minor modification to the boundaries of the Site of Palmyra, Syrian Arab Republic, with the exception of the archaeological sites of Al Bazouriya palace, Al-Bakhra, Al-Sukkari Palace and Khan Hallabat (mentioned in Annex 2 of the minor boundary modification proposal);
  3. Also approves the proposed buffer zone for the Site of Palmyra, Syrian Arab Republic;
  4. To support the protection and management, recommends that the State Party take the following further actions pending the improvement in the situation of conflict that has affected this property:
    1. Further developing clear and workable objectives (including permitted and prohibited uses) for the various zones that comprise the buffer zone,
    2. Ensuring that the permitted and prohibited uses in the buffer zone clearly addresse the wide range of potential land uses that could impact on the archaeological materials, such as quarrying, energy infrastructure, water supply and drainage networks, and so on,
    3. Further developing planning and policy measures for the Ayn Fayad areas (south west of the property) and the Aamiryat urban area (north of the White Zone) to ensure that future developments do not pose intrusive pressures on the inscribed property,
    4. Developing the Management Plan for the entire property and its buffer zone,
    5. Finalising and implementing the Ministerial Decree that sets out the strategic policy for protecting World Heritage and the revised Antiquities Law as soon as possible,
    6. Continuing to improve the understanding and protection of the attributes associated with the World Heritage property located within the buffer zone and in the wider setting.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC/17/41.COM/7A, WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add and WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add.2),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: