1.         Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) (N 1263)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2008

Criteria  (x)

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/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2017-2017)
Total amount approved: USD 75,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

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

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 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,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B.Add.2,
  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,
  3. 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;
  4. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. 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;
  7. 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;
  8. 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;
  9. 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;
  10. 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.