Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1978
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/18/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 93,300
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/18/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Total amount provided to the property: USD 800,000 for the « Conservation Action Plan for Lalibela » -Phase 1 and Phase 2 (Norwegian Funds-in-Trust).
Previous monitoring missions
2004, 2005, 2008, 2009: World Heritage Centre follow-up missions; 2006, 2007, 2008: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring missions; May 2018: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Advisory mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/18/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
In 2008, four protective shelters were erected over five of the rock-hewn churches to protect them from weathering, in particular water infiltration from the roofs. Initially presented as temporary, these shelters, which have been a matter of concern to the World Heritage Committee since the project’s introduction in 2006, now represent a challenging issue affecting the churches and community of Lalibela. Following a request of the State Party on 1 December 2017, a joint UNESCO/ICCROM/ICOMOS Advisory mission was conducted to Lalibela from 20 to 25 May 2018 to monitor progress on the conservation of the property and particularly to advise the State Party on the dismantling of the temporary shelters. The World Heritage Centre then requested the State Party, in a letter dated 14 November 2018, to submit a report on the state of conservation of the property. Received on 29 January 2019, this report is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/18/documents/ and addresses the following:
Furthermore, a meeting between ICOMOS, French experts, Ethiopian authorities and the World Heritage Centre was held on 1 March 2019 to discuss about a French cooperation to financially support the renovation work of Lalibela.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
As pointeout by the 2018 Advisory mission to Lalibela, the four shelters erected in 2008, initially foreseen to be temporary, are now subject of concern for both the churches and the community. In particular, some of the shelter’s pylons are placed close to areas with underground galleries, and the experienced sensations of heavy vibrations and loud noise caused by wind have generated concern regarding the structural integrity of the shelters. The resulting fears of a construction collapse, as expressed by the local community, adversely affect the ecclesiastic life inside and outside of the churches.
The mission therefore stressed the necessity to remove the shelters, after the necessary conservation works to the churches are carried out.
Consequently, while it is appreciated that the State Party submitted the draft Roadmap for the conservation of the site produced by the ECDSWC and the 2014 and 2018 reports on the shelters assessments, the reports of the restoration projects implemented at the Bete Gabriel-Rafael, Beta Golgotha and Mika’el churches, as well as the Terms of Reference of the forthcoming conservation projects on the churches, need to be submitted.
More specifically, the mission recommended that the dismantling of the shelters be based on a framework programme that includes a structural analysis on the safety of the shelter construction, a roof repair and maintenance project of the churches that takes into account the changed microclimate below the shelter, the allocation of adequate funds and resources, and a training and capacity-building programme. This document needs to be submitted before any work takes place.
Moreover, the 2015 Reserved Area regulation also defined a new management structure for Lalibela including, in particular, the establishment of an Advisory Committee aimed at improving the decision-making process at the local level. This structure, however, is not operational yet. As to the established cadastre for the property and its buffer zone, for which maps are expected for 2019, it is worth noting that the boundaries of the property have not been adequately defined yet, nor has a buffer zone been submitted for approval through a request for Minor Boundary Modification, which is detrimental to the planning and management processes.
Consequently, it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to ensure the operationalization of the Advisory Committee, to revise the 2014 Management Plan and to submit it along with the cadastre maps and a request for Minor Boundary Modification including the foreseen planning and management provisions.
Furthermore, the increasing urban growth of Lalibela town requires control and the improvement of living conditions near the churches has to be addressed. A joint Vision Statement of all involved stakeholders is required that serves as a guiding principle for the revision of the Structure Plan of Lalibela town and specifically for the establishment of a Local Development Plan for the property and its buffer zone.
The intangible aspects related to the religious practices in the churches are also important to maintain the property’s authenticity. To that effect, it is recommended that the Theological School Project - an initiative from the Church of Lalibela to address tourism management and heritage conservation in Lalibela in a holistic way using income deriving from tourism - be elaborated further to express the interrelation between conservation and the safeguarding of traditional and religious practices adequately. The current proposal requires substantial revision concerning the foreseen location, its functions and its overall size.
Lastly, it is recommended that the Committee encourage further study and research on Lalibela’s artefacts, wall paintings, architecture and archaeology, including structural aspects and seismic effects on the churches.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.105
The World Heritage Committee,