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Um er-Rasas (Kastrom Mefa'a) (Jordan) (C 1093)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2004
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/1093/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 34,750
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1093/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount granted: USD 6,000 from the Italian Funds-in-Trust
Previous monitoring missions
March-April 2005: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2006: Joint World Heritage Centre/ ICOMOS mission; March 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission; July 2008: World Heritage Centre expert mission for the Stylite tower
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Lack of Management systems / plan / structure
- Unstable structures and lack of security
- Lack of comprehensive conservation plan
- Important tourism development project with new constructions
- Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1093/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 1 February 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1093/documents/ and presents progress in addressing a number of conservation issues identified by the Committee at its previous sessions, as follows:
- Ongoing monitoring of the Stylite Tower was integrated with seismic vulnerability analysis by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) and the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA);
- A proposed project for the conservation of the Stylite Tower has been selected by the Department of Antiquities (DoA) on the basis of a 2015 report exploring different technical options, and is currently being developed through the cooperation with Italian partners;
- Monitoring of the Castrum is ongoing and, restoration, maintenance and consolidation of the Twin Churches that are located within its premises has been carried out, led by the European Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies (EKBMM, Greece);
- Some privately-owned land within the buffer zone is being acquired by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities as part of plans to enlarge the buffer zone.
Furthermore, the State Party offers the following updates on the implementation of the Management Plan:
- Rainwater drainage elements associated with the shelter over the Church of St Stephen had leaked, which affected the mosaic floor. A project to resolve this problem has proved successful;
- The mosaics in several churches have been reburied for protection and are undergoing monitoring, while others have been consolidated and are being regularly maintained;
- Visitor signage is being upgraded and new interpretation is planned. In addition, plans are being drawn up to address the issue of open wells as a source of risk to visitors;
- New research projects are being undertaken with a range of Italian institutions, which include surveys and documentation; geophysical prospection to define the extent of the site and to study the hydraulic network; analyses related to the stability of the Stylite Tower; and petrographic analyses;
- A collaborative programme for capacity building between the DoA, EKBMM and the University of Attica (Greece) has instigated the training of conservators and technicians on monitoring and maintenance of mosaics.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
The State Party should be congratulated on the adoption and the first results of the 2018 Management Plan. However, in support of this management planning process, three supporting documents have been requested in recent years, but have not been provided. In its report, the State Party refers to existing documentation it has already provided:
- Conservation Plan: The State Party reports that this plan is covered by Chapter 7 of the 2018 Management Plan. This chapter is noted and is a useful statement of conservation aims and policies. However, it would be useful to have insights into how this Management Plan, with its policies and actions, is being translated into actual conservation activities, particularly regarding emergency situations. It would be helpful for the State Party to submit a more detailed work-plan that lists the intended conservation campaigns, specifying: the emphasis of the particular campaign; timing and duration; when in-house staff or external specialist contractors are foreseen; etc. It would be important to indicate which conservation interventions are already guaranteed and which are subject to funding being obtained;
- Public Use Plan: It is reported that this Plan was submitted in 2015 and is supplemented by the document entitled “A Basis Towards the Public Use Plan” (Annex 1), which contains images of examples of signage and publicity, and existing signage and visitor provision at Um er-Rasas. The Management Plan’ section on “Appropriate Use” states some principles, which are useful first steps towards analyzing future developments, but do not constitute a Public Use Plan. Planning for public use should be based on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and other values. It would tie into broader management objectives, ensuring that visits and other forms of public use contribute to the property’s conservation and that the property contributes to contemporary society, including sustainable development. Ideally, a Public Use Plan would involve stakeholder participation, including local community members, and not focus on visitors alone;
- Archaeological research policy: It is reported that this policy is addressed via the “Regulations for Archaeological Projects in Jordan” issued in 2016 (Annex 2). However, the site management team might find it helpful to translate these principles into a policy that addresses the specific situation at Um er-Rasas as foreseen within the Management Plan’s actions under Research and Excavation. It should be the basis on which applications for research projects are assessed, be in line with the Management Plan, and should include criteria such as the impact of the proposed research on conservation responsibilities; the alignment of research to existing management priorities; the cost that partnership brings in terms of time and human resources, etc. This is important when many research proposals are relative luxuries that might wait, so that site staff can focus on core activities and on the conservation priorities identified in the Management Plan.
The State Party reports that it is finalizing the design for the Stylite Tower’s urgent structural conservation, with assurances that this project will be submitted to the World Heritage Centre before it is implemented. It is important that wider analysis of archaeological, historical and other dimensions should be taken into consideration and inform the design, as recommended by the Committee in 2015.
Although the State Party reports that the Castrum is constantly monitored, the 2018 Management Plan states that its south wall in particular “requires immediate attention to avoid catastrophic collapses”. No action to address this urgent situation is reported. The restoration work at the Twin Churches, which lie within the Castrum, is briefly mentioned, but with no details provided and no reference to the rest of this ten-hectare area of the archaeological site.
With regard to the boundaries and the buffer zone, the State Party reports that plans to extend the buffer zone are primarily based on land acquisition, a process that is currently underway.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.47
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.55, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
- Congratulates the State Party on beginning to implement the Management Plan for Um er-Rasas and, while acknowledging the documents and other information provided with regard to the previously-requested Conservation Plan including a detailed work-plan, Public Use Plan and archaeological research policy, reiterates its request that these aspects of site management are explored in more detail;
- Requests the State Party to submit the final conservation project proposal for the Stylite Tower as soon as possible for review by the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, and urges the State Party to continue monitoring the conservation situation closely;
- Expressing concern that urgent conservation work at the Castrum does not appear to have taken place, also urges the State Party to undertake all needed temporary and reversible consolidation interventions of the fragile attributes across the whole property while planning for longer-term conservation;
- Encourages the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission to support the finalization of such projects if deemed necessary;
- Also requests the State Party to provide updated information with regard to the plans currently underway to enlarge the buffer zone;
- Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 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 45th session in 2021.