Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) (N 1263)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2008
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger N/A
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 75,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
December 2012: IUCN mission; June 2014: IUCN/Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH) mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Legal frameworks, governance and management systems
- Uncontrolled developments including ground transport infrastructure: road network
- Unsustainable use of natural resources
- Absence of adequate biosecurity measures to avoid the introduction of invasive alien species
- Livestock farming / grazing of domesticated animals Fishing/collecting aquatic resources
- Solid waste: primarily in and around main settlements
- Civil unrest inhibiting management and access of international experts and capacity building support
- Extreme weather events: cyclones
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 12 February 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/documents/, providing the following information:
- The State Party states that despite the challenges facing Yemen, the protection of Socotra’s environment remains a top priority;
- By decision of the President, more authority was devolved to the island authorities and the Governor to be able to protect its fragile biodiversity;
- Uncontrolled development is being addressed through implementation of the zoning and master plan of Socotra and the 2017 cabinet decree banning land sales, as well as the establishment of a new committee to survey illegally sold lands;
- Limited “indiscriminate” construction is reported in areas including Delisha beach and Serhin Lagoon. A resulting site visit by a special committee of local government institutions made recommendations to urgently halt activities near the lagoon, implement law enforcement and legal prosecution measures, ban construction outside development zones and implement Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for construction. The Governor is reviewing the recommendations and is expected to take actions soon;
- Biodiversity surveys of Socotra have been completed and the Socotra Master Plan will be updated;
- In February 2019, the Khalifa Foundation (KF) and Environmental Protection Agency, Socotra Branch (EPA) discussed environmental activities on Socotra, including KF funding for preparation of a 5-year environmental plan;
- The State Party reiterates that fishing remains seasonal and traditional, and that fishing activities have decreased due to public sector employment resulting in reduced pressure on the marine environment. The reopened fish factory has not led to an increase in fishing but continues to enhance local livelihoods. Local authorities have stopped illegal sea cucumber harvesting by non-Socotri investors;
- Invasive Alien Species (IAS) control measures include a ban on the import and export of living materials without a special EPA permit, enforcement through sea and air patrols, and IAS elimination and awareness raising. The State Party acknowledges that due to gaps in enforcement linked to the political and security instability some IAS tree species had been planted, but this was stopped and corrected.
The State Party welcomes the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission and is supporting its organization. A technical meeting will be coordinated with the World Heritage Centre following the mission.
Despite the State Party’s invitation for a joint mission to the property as requested by the Committee (Decisions 40 COM 7B.86, 41 COM 7B.23 and 42 COM 7B.100), the mission has not yet been possible due to ongoing security and logistical access issues.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
The reported commitment to ensure that the protection of Socotra’s environment remains a priority and the actions taken to reduce illegal development, address IAS and combat illegal sea cucumber fishing within the property are appreciated.
However, recalling the request of the Committee to refrain from allowing any further development at the property, until planned activities and projects in the property and its buffer zone have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre (Decision 42 COM 7B.100), the reported unregulated construction including at Delisha beach and Serhin Lagoon is of concern. While welcoming the recommendations of the special committee to address this issue, the implementation of the recommendations remains unconfirmed. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to take urgent action to unequivocally halt all construction activities. No information has been provided on the concerns raised in previous reports of existing tourism and leisure projects in environmentally sensitive areas and their potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, including specifically the Hawlaf Sea Port extension carried out without an EIA.
It is noted that the report provides no information to ascertain the overall state of the property’s natural resources or management, except that biodiversity surveys have been carried out and the Socotra Management Plan is being revised. While acknowledging the information provided that fishing remains seasonal and traditional, and is decreasing due to alternate employment opportunities, no information is available on the current impact of potential unsustainable fishing pressure on local fisheries, raised as concerns in 2018.
The efforts to combat IAS are welcome. Reiterating the potentially devastating impacts of IAS on the highly unique natural environment of Socotra, it is important to further strengthen law enforcement to address biosecurity.
Noting the island has been impacted by three cyclones in the past four years, and that extreme weather events related to climate change are expected to increase, it is critical that the State Party effectively manage the resilience of the property including through adaptation and mitigation measures. No information has been provided on the 2018 cyclone impact on the OUV of the property.
The willingness of the State Party to invite and organize the joint Reactive Monitoring mission to the property is appreciated, but it is unfortunate that the mission has still not been possible as a result of security and logistical concerns. It is hoped that this mission can be organized soon, in close cooperation with the United Nations mission to Yemen. Given the urgency to address the state of conservation of Socotra, the mission and technical meeting proposed by the State Party remain a matter of utmost urgency. Ongoing conflict continues to inhibit the management of the property, international cooperation efforts and the access of experts visiting the property.
Finally, it is recommended that the Committee reiterate its utmost concern over the reported multiple threats to the property, and reiterate the urgent need for the mission to fully assess the current state of conservation and whether the property meets the criteria for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger, in accordance with Paragraph 180 b) of the Operational Guidelines.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.1
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B.Add.2,
- Recalling Decisions 40 COM 7B.86, 41 COM 7B.23 and 42 COM 7B.100, adopted at its 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 41st (Krakow, 2017) and 42nd (Manama, 2018) sessions respectively,
- Welcomes the State Party’s repeated invitations for the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property requested at its previous sessions, and regrets that the mission could not be undertaken due to the ongoing security situation in Yemen and logistical constraints;
- Acknowledges the State Party’s efforts to address illegal development in the property, but notes with concern reported unregulated construction including at Delisha beach and Serhin Lagoon, and requests the State Party to take immediate action to address any resulting impacts, including through implementation of the Socotran special committee recommendations, and reiterates its request to halt any activity that may have a potential impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and to refrain from allowing any further development in the property, until planned activities and projects in the property and its buffer zone have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by IUCN, prior to taking any decisions regarding their implementation that would be difficult to reverse, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Also notes with concern that no information has been provided to determine the overall state of the property’s natural resources, including potential impacts of unsustainable fishing pressure on the state of conservation of marine resources;
- Also acknowledges the State Party’s efforts to implement measures to control Invasive Alien Species (IAS) and, also recalling the potentially devastating impacts of IAS on the highly unique natural environment of Socotra, urges the State Party to strengthen measures to address biosecurity controls;
- Reiterates its utmost concern about the multiple reported threats to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, resulting from uncontrolled developments, unsustainable use of natural resources, and the absence of adequate biosecurity measures to avoid the introduction of invasive alien species (IAS), and considers that all these factors represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property;
- Reiterates again the need for the invited joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to take place as a matter of urgency, in order to assess its current state of conservation, in particular in relation to the above-mentioned threats, and to review whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Also welcomes the State Party’s intention to hold a technical meeting following the mission, focused on how to ensure the protection of the property’s OUV while also promoting appropriate sustainable development for the people of Socotra, and also reiterates its request for this meeting to be urgently undertaken with the Yemeni authorities, the World Heritage Centre, IUCN and concerned parties;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, 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, with a view to considering, in case of the confirmation of potential or ascertained danger to its Outstanding Universal Value, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.