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Old City of Sana'a

Yemen
Factors affecting the property in 2017*
  • Civil unrest
  • Housing
  • Identity, social cohesion, changes in local population and community
  • Land conversion
  • Management activities
  • War
  • Other Threats:

    Functional decay of the residential neighborhoods; Physical damage and instability of buildings

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
  • Threats arising from the armed conflict in Yemen
  • Physical damage and instability of buildings
  • Urgent need for shelter for displaced residents
  • Management activities
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Damages and threats related to the armed conflict in Yemen

Corrective Measures for the property

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2017

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); USD 12,000 for technical assistance in support of the reconstruction of the al-Qasimi neighborhood (Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH))

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2017
Requests approved: 6 (from 1990-2014)
Total amount approved : 101,997 USD
Missions to the property until 2017**

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 2017

On 20 March 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/385/documents/, in which the following matters are reported:

  • The Old City of Sana'a continues to be subjected to impact from armed conflict and socio-economic decline. Within the property, Al-Madrassa and Al-Bakiria neighbourhoods have been damaged in September 2016 and additional damage has arisen from vibration caused by explosions in surrounding areas. The General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY) has continued dialogue with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies regarding conservation processes, but lack of access to resources is a major obstacle to conservation activities and hampers the effectiveness of GOPHCY;
  • GOPHCY had completed documentation and a technical study for the Al Qassimi area, in consultation with UNESCO Doha Office and ICOMOS but emergency interventions could not be completed due to lack of funds. There are serious concerns that two major buildings in this area are unstable and could collapse at any time following last year’s heavy rainy season, unless urgent intervention occurs;
  • Four GOPHCY and General Organization of Antiquities and Museums (GOAM) staff participated in a regional training course in risk management during armed conflict, organized by ICCROM Sharjah and the UNESCO Doha Office. GOPHCY has also established a trained core expert team, which could undertake necessary studies and documentation as well as emergency responses to damaged heritage properties, if financial support were available. Other building activities have been postponed, owing to the security situation and lack of resources;
  • The ‘Old City of Sana'a High Committee’, which has been reactivated, will focus on awareness rising, fund raising, and urgent conservation actions. While ICCROM Sharjah and UNESCO Doha have provided assistance, additional international support is strongly needed.

The State Party has extended an open invitation for a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the state of conservation of the property and identify measures needed to reverse current deterioration of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2017

The armed conflict in Yemen continues to severely affect and further threaten the OUV of the property. Satellite-detected damage in the City of Sana'a, published by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in March 2017, based on satellite imagery from December 2016, identified 217 affected structures, of which 33 were destroyed, 8 severely damaged, and 176 moderately damaged, representing an increase of approximately 138.5% in total damage since the previous UNITAR UNOSAT analysis based on an image from 15 May 2015. This is a preliminary analysis, which has not yet been validated in the field and the reported damage may extend beyond the property itself, but by any measure this is a highly-concerning level of damage.

GOPHCY’s involvement in damage assessment, documentation, first-aid interventions, preparatory training and communication with the World Heritage Centre, UNESCO Office in Doha and the Advisory Bodies is highly appreciated. However, the exchanges of information and consultation on the state of conservation of the property and first-aid measures need to be further reinforced.

The situation within the property for both residents and buildings remains dire. Although the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS have supported reconstruction plans to sustain shelter for the inhabitants, and clear technical restoration guidelines have been provided, implementation has stopped in light of the security situation and lack of resources.

The World Heritage Centre received information, which was confirmed by GOPHCY, on new constructions being built or under construction within the property, illustrated by pictures that show the inadequacy of these new buildings in the historic urban fabric of the city. Although the needs in terms of housing and basic shelter and services for the inhabitants are a priority, these should be done in consultation with the Advisory bodies and the World Heritage Centre in order to ensure that the impact on the OUV of property is not incrementally affected.

Support from the international community remains essential for capacity building to conduct adequate preventive and restoration measures at the property, in relation to the armed conflict, within the framework of the July 2015 Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural heritage. Although future donor support is necessarily constrained unless and until the security situation improves, emergency interventions for the reconstruction of destroyed houses still require immediate financial and technical support, to sustain people’s livelihoods and ensure that these interventions include due consideration of the property’s World Heritage status and its OUV.

The Water and Sewerage project is currently not proceeding owing to the conflict, but the Committee’s position on this project should be maintained. Owing to the security conditions prevailing in the country, it’s still difficult for World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to provide further support to the State Party on the Action Plan for the National Strategy for the Preservation of the Historic Cities, Sites and Monuments 2016 – 2020, nor is it currently possible to arrange a joint Reactive Monitoring mission, despite the open invitation from the State Party.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2017
41 COM 7A.52
Old City of Sana’a (Yemen) (C 385)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7A.24, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Expresses its continuing concern at the recent damage caused to the cultural heritage of Yemen as a result of ongoing armed conflict, and that the Old City of Sana’a has incurred irreversible destruction, and continues to be vulnerable, owing to the current security situation, ongoing social change and continuing lack of organisational support and resources for both heritage management and physical conservation;
  4. Commends the State Party for its involvement in damage assessment, documentation and emergency interventions, and for its communication with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies and welcomes the open invitation for a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, as soon as the security situation in Yemen has improved;
  5. Urges all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from any further action that would cause damage to the cultural heritage of Yemen and the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, in particular the safeguarding of properties on the World Heritage List and those included in the Tentative List of Yemen, and encourages all concerned stakeholders to unite for the preservation of cultural heritage in Yemen;
  6. Notes that the State Party has undertaken a range of remedial and preparatory actions including staff training and a technical study, and emergency intervention, but regrets that further conservation actions or other projects at the property cannot proceed owing to the security situation and lack of resources;
  7. Notes with concern the construction of new buildings within the property without prior consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies and requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for examination by the Advisory Bodies, further information on these new buildings and on new projects prior to initiate any construction works;
  8. Also urges the State Party to continue dialogue and consultations with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in all restoration and/or reconstruction processes to ensure the safety of the inhabitants and the respect of international conservation standards;
  9. Reiterates its previous call to the international community to provide technical and financial support, including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund, for the implementation of the Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural heritage, adopted at the UNESCO Expert meeting in July 2015, including funding for capacity building and first-aid restoration and protection measures; and also calls on the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to continue providing the State Party with technical assistance and support where needed;
  10. Reiterates its previous requests to the State Party to:
    1. Maintain a moratorium on new development or new construction, pending completion of the proposed Conservation Plan and, where appropriate, project-specific heritage impact assessments,
    2. Prior to proceeding with the proposed rehabilitation of the water and sewerage project, prepare a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), which includes assessment of impacts on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in line with the relevant 2011 ICOMOS Guidance on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage properties, and 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,
    3. Develop, as soon as it is feasible and in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, 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);
  11. 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;
  12. Decides to retain Old City of Sana'a (Yemen) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
41 COM 8C.2
Update of the List of World Heritage in Danger (Retained Properties)

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:
    • Afghanistan, Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley (Decision 41 COM 7A.54)
    • Afghanistan, Minaret and Archaeological Remains of Jam (Decision 41 COM 7A.55)
    • Belize, Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (Decision 41 COM 7A.2)
    • Bolivia (Plurinational State of), City of Potosí (Decision 41 COM 7A.23)
    • Central African Republic, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park (Decision 41 COM 7A.4)
    • Chile, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (Decision 41 COM 7A.24)
    • Côte d'Ivoire / Guinea, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Decision 41 COM 7A.6)
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Garamba National Park (Decision 41 COM 7A.7)
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Decision 41 COM 7A.8)
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Okapi Wildlife Reserve (Decision 41 COM 7A.9)
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Salonga National Park (Decision 41 COM 7A.10)
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park (Decision 41 COM 7A.11)
    • Egypt, Abu Mena (Decision 41 COM 7A.32)
    • Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (Decision 41 COM 7A.3)
    • Indonesia, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (Decision 41 COM 7A.18)
    • Iraq, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Decision 41 COM 7A.33)
    • Iraq, Hatra (Decision 41 COM 7A.34)
    • Iraq, Samarra Archaeological City (Decision 41 COM 7A.35)
    • Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls (site proposed by Jordan) (Decision 41 COM 7A.36)
    • Libya, Archaeological Site of Cyrene (Decision 41 COM 7A.37)
    • Libya, Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Decision 41 COM 7A.38)
    • Libya, Archaeological Site of Sabratha (Decision 41 COM 7A.39)
    • Libya, Old Town of Ghadamès (Decision 41 COM 7A.40)
    • Libya, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (Decision 41 COM 7A.41)
    • Madagascar, Rainforests of the Atsinanana (Decision 41 COM 7A.14)
    • Mali, Old Towns of Djenné (Decision 41 COM 7A.28)
    • Mali, Timbuktu (Decision 41 COM 7A.29)
    • Mali, Tomb of Askia (Decision 41 COM 7A.30)
    • Micronesia (Federated States of), Nan Madol: Ceremonial Centre of Eastern Micronesia (Decision 41 COM 7A.56)
    • Niger, Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves (Decision 41 COM 7A.15)
    • Palestine, Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Decision 41 COM 7A.42)
    • Palestine, Palestine: Land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir (Decision 41 COM 7A.43)
    • Panama, Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Decision 41 COM 7A.25)
    • Peru, Chan Chan Archaelogical Zone (Decision 41 COM 7A.26)
    • Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park (Decision 41 COM 7A.16)
    • Serbia, Medieval Monuments in Kosovo (Decision 41 COM 7A.21)
    • Solomon Islands, East Rennell (Decision 41 COM 7A.19)
    • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Aleppo (Decision 41 COM 7A.44)
    • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Bosra (Decision 41 COM 7A.45)
    • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient City of Damascus (Decision 41 COM 7A.46)
    • Syrian Arab Republic, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Decision 41 COM 7A.47)
    • Syrian Arab Republic, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Decision 41 COM 7A.48)
    • Syrian Arab Republic, Site of Palmyra (Decision 41 COM 7A.49)
    • Uganda, Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi (Decision 41 COM 7A.31)
    • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (Decision 41 COM 7A.22)
    • United Republic of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve (Decision 41 COM 7A.17)
    • United States of America, Everglades National Park (Decision 41 COM 7A.1)
    • Uzbekistan, Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz (Decision 41 COM 7A.57)
    • Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Coro and its Port (Decision 41 COM 7A.27)
    • Yemen, Historic Town of Zabid (Decision 41 COM 7A.51)
    • Yemen, Old City of Sana’a (Decision 41 COM 7A.52)
    • Yemen, Old Walled City of Shibam (Decision 41 COM 7A.53)
      Draft Decision: 41 COM 7A.52

      The World Heritage Committee,

      1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7A.Add,
      2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7A.24, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
      3. Expresses its continuing concern at the recent damage caused to the cultural heritage of Yemen as a result of ongoing armed conflict, and that the Old City of Sana’a has incurred irreversible destruction, and continues to be vulnerable, owing to the current security situation, ongoing social change and continuing lack of organisational support and resources for both heritage management and physical conservation;
      4. Commends the State Party for its involvement in damage assessment, documentation and emergency interventions, and for its communication with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies and welcomes the open invitation for a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, as soon as the security situation in Yemen has improved;
      5. Urges all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from any further action that would cause damage to the cultural heritage of Yemen and the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, in particular the safeguarding of properties on the World Heritage List and those included in the Tentative List of Yemen, and encourages all concerned stakeholders to unite for the preservation of cultural heritage in Yemen;
      6. Notes that the State Party has undertaken a range of remedial and preparatory actions including staff training and a technical study, and emergency intervention, but regrets that further conservation actions or other projects at the property cannot proceed owing to the security situation and lack of resources;
      7. Notes with concern the construction of new buildings within the property without prior consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies and requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for examination by the Advisory Bodies, further information on these new buildings and on new projects prior to initiate any construction works;
      8. Also urges the State Party to continue dialogue and consultations with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in all restoration and/or reconstruction processes to ensure the safety of the inhabitants and the respect of international conservation standards;
      9. Reiterates its previous call to the international community to provide technical and financial support, including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund, for the implementation of the Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural heritage, adopted at the UNESCO Expert meeting in July 2015, including funding for capacity building and first-aid restoration and protection measures; and also calls on the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to continue providing the State Party with technical assistance and support where needed;
      10. Reiterates its previous requests to the State Party to:
        1. Maintain a moratorium on new development or new construction, pending completion of the proposed Conservation Plan and, where appropriate, project-specific heritage impact assessments,
        2. Prior to proceeding with the proposed rehabilitation of the water and sewerage project, prepare a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), which includes assessment of impacts on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), in line with the relevant 2011 ICOMOS Guidance on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage properties, and 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,
        3. Develop, as soon as it is feasible and in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, 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);
      11. 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;
      12. Decides to retain Old City of Sana'a (Yemen) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
      Report year: 2017
      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 (2017) .pdf
      arrow_circle_right 41COM (2017)
      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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