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Aksum

Ethiopia
Factors affecting the property in 2018*
  • 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 and Mausoleum
  • Lack of progress on Church Museum construction
  • Housing
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2018

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 2018
Requests approved: 1 (from 1996-1996)
Total amount approved : 2,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2018**

November 1998: ICCROM reappraisal mission for the World Bank; 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009: missions of the World Heritage Centre and experts for the implementation of the Obelisk project; February 2010 and January 2013: Joint Reactive Monitoring missions World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS; February 2016: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018

On 15 February and 29 December 2017, the State Party submitted reports on the state of conservation of the property, both available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/15/documents/, outlining the progress made in relation to the requests of the Committee, as follows:

  • No progress has been made on the completion of the Church Museum construction. The State Party has engaged the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which will appoint a consultant to improve the façade design in early 2018;
  • The draft Management Plan was validated through workshops held in Aksum, after which it was submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies. The State Party is now engaged in addressing the comments raised in ICOMOS’ June 2017 Technical Review and plans to submit the updated Management Plan during 2018;
  • The Ethiopian Mapping Agency has been engaged to prepare detailed maps for the property for submission, including the information requested to be included by former monitoring missions, such as explanatory information for each area of this serial property;
  • The State Party has reiterated its decision to self-fund the consolidation project of Stele III, as well as the investigation into the causes of the groundwater problem in the Tomb of the Brick Arches. The project is proceeding, with the State Party reporting the progress made to date on this project. A team of engineers has visited the property to reassess the problems, and a contract has been established for engineers to oversee the project. Tenders have been called for to execute the project. The contracting document was submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies along with the state of conservation report;
  • The City of Aksum is growing fast and therefore an integrated Structure Plan for the entire city, which appropriately deals with the World Heritage property and old town Aksum, was implemented in 2016. This Structure Plan was only submitted to the World Heritage Centre in January 2018 and includes provisions for development controls in the buffer zone of the property;
  • The State Party plans to submit a request for International Assistance to support training of staff engaged in the management of Aksum and other Ethiopian World Heritage properties as well as to implement the UNESCO Recommendation on Historic Urban Landscapes.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2018

The management of the property and the impact of development on its setting remain of concern, but the proposal by the State Party to initiate a training programme for its officials in response to a request of the Committee (40 COM 7B.10) is welcomed.

The State Party has been active in submitting documentation to the World Heritage Centre for review. A Management Plan was reviewed by the Advisory Bodies in June 2017, and recommendations were made for its improvement. It remains unclear how the Management Plan relates to the 2010 Thematic Master Plan as the latter has not yet been submitted for review and its current status is unclear. The World Heritage Centre is also still awaiting the detailed maps of the property and buffer zone boundary delineations, requested by the Committee in 2013 and 2015. The State Party has reported that map preparation is in process, but this process has been delayed substantially. The review and approval of the Management Plan is dependent on the submission of these detailed maps.

The set of documents outlining the minor façade modification for the Church Museum, requested by the Committee since 2015, did not indicate any changes to the façade design. The State Party’s confirmation that a consultant will be appointed to undertake the design modification is welcomed. However, due to the long delay in the construction of the Church Museum, the temporary, but highly negative, impact on the setting and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property remains. The Church collections continue to be housed in a perilous state of conservation, which is cause for concern. The World Heritage Centre is still awaiting details of the archaeological features that were discovered during the Church Museum building works, as requested by the Committee in 2016.

The State Party has made progress on addressing the structural instability of Stele III, the problem of rising water in the Tomb of the Brick Arches, and the structural instability of the Mausoleum, as far as appointing consultants. The Advisory Bodies have made clear recommendations for amending this contract document to include a suitably qualified archaeologist, and to request that all documentation for the proposed interventions be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review before any on-site work is executed. It is important to highlight the previous decision of the Committee that any proposal that requires excavation in or around the Tomb of the Brick Arches should be avoided and that a cautious approach needs to be followed. The State Party has been keeping the Advisory Bodies updated on progress through the submission of documentation for technical review, but no alternatives to the original proposal have been submitted to date.

It is concerning that the 2016 Structure Plan has been implemented without awaiting comment from the Advisory Bodies. There has been no submission of details of current and potential developments within the property and buffer zone as requested by the Committee. While the State Party reports that the Structure Plan addresses this concern, this Plan was not reviewed, and the detailed boundary delineation has not yet been completed.  It remains unclear how the State Party has addressed the inappropriate developments reported to be underway in the 2016 mission report, and the current status of landscaping proposals for the Church Compound. The status of the 2010 Thematic Master Plan, and its relationship both with the Management Plan currently in the process of being completed and the 2016 Structure Plan, remains unclear.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2018
42 COM 7B.43
Aksum (Ethiopia) (C 15)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.10, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Commends the State Party on the progress made in developing a Management Plan for the property, even though this is still in the process of development, and on the intention to instigate training officials involved in the management of the property and application of the principles contained in the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape;
  4. Remains concerned about the management of the property and the impact of development on its setting, in the absence of:
    1. A completed and approved Management Plan,
    2. Defined property and buffer zone boundaries,
    3. A review of the 2010 Thematic Master Plan;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit, by 1 December 2018, the revised Management Plan and the 2010 Thematic Master Plan to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies and to clearly clarify the relationship between these documents and the 2016 Structure Plan;
  6. Also requests the State Party to submit, as a matter of urgency, the previously requested detailed boundary delineation maps of the property and its buffer zone to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Reiterates its request to 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, together with appropriate Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), including for the developments commented upon by the 2016 mission;
  8. Further requests the State Party to:
    1. Amend the contract for the stabilization of Stele III to take account of the recommendations of the Advisory Bodies,
    2. Continue with investigating solutions for the problems faced at the Tomb of the Brick Arches and the Mausoleum, in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Bodies, before executing this project,
    3. Continue to keep the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies updated on this project, refrain from implementing procedures that have not been reviewed, and follow a cautious approach in this project by engaging expert advisors throughout,
    4. Submit the revised design for the façade modification of the Church Museum, and an archaeologist’s report on the archaeological features that were reported as being discovered during the Church Museum building works, by 1 February 2019, to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  9. Encourages the State Party to develop its proposal for training relevant personnel on the Convention, the Operational Guidelines, and the Management Plan for Aksum, once the latter is finalized;
  10. Urges the State Party to continue to implement the recommendations of the 2013 and 2016 missions;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, 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 44th session in 2020.
Draft Decision: 42 COM 7B.43

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 40 COM 7B.10, adopted at its 40th session (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016),
  3. Commends the State Party on the progress made in developing a Management Plan for the property, even though this is still in the process of development, and on the intention to instigate training officials involved in the management of the property and application of the principles contained in the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape;
  4. Remains concerned about the management of the property and the impact of development on its setting, in the absence of:
    1. A completed and approved Management Plan,
    2. Defined property and buffer zone boundaries,
    3. A review of the 2010 Thematic Master Plan;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit, by 1 December 2018, the revised Management Plan and the 2010 Thematic Master Plan to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies and to clearly clarify the relationship between these documents and the 2016 Structure Plan;
  6. Also requests the State Party to submit, as a matter of urgency, the previously requested detailed boundary delineation maps of the property and its buffer zone to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Reiterates its request to 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, together with appropriate Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), including for the developments commented upon by the 2016 mission;
  8. Further requests the State Party to:
    1. Amend the contract for the stabilization of Stele III to take account of the recommendations of the Advisory Bodies,
    2. Continue with investigating solutions for the problems faced at the Tomb of the Brick Arches and the Mausoleum, in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Bodies, before executing this project,
    3. Continue to keep the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies updated on this project, refrain from implementing procedures that have not been reviewed, and follow a cautious approach in this project by engaging expert advisors throughout,
    4. Submit the revised design for the façade modification of the Church Museum, and an archaeologist’s report on the archaeological features that were reported as being discovered during the Church Museum building works, by 1 February 2019, to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  9. Encourages the State Party to develop its proposal for training relevant personnel on the Convention, the Operational Guidelines, and the Management Plan for Aksum, once the latter is finalized;
  10. Urges the State Party to continue to implement the recommendations of the 2013 and 2016 missions,
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, 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 44th session in 2020.
Report year: 2018
Ethiopia
Date of Inscription: 1980
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2017) .pdf
Report (2017) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 42COM (2018)
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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