Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Aksum

Ethiopia
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • 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 2021

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 2021
Requests approved: 1 (from 1996-1996)
Total amount approved : 2,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**

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 2021

On 28 November 2019, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1455/documents. This report was preceded by a progress report dated 31 January 2019. These reports provide information on the progress achieved with the implementation of the recommendations adopted by the Committee at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018), as follows:

  • The Management Plan was submitted to the World Heritage Centre in 2017 and was then revised and updated after reception of the June 2018 ICOMOS technical review, including by integrating the 2010 Thematic Master Plan into the Management Plan, and resubmitted to the World Heritage Centre in February 2019;
  • A governmental regulation has established a state cadastre of the property and buffer zone boundaries, which lists GPS points along the boundaries of the property. The State Party is working towards creating a cadastre system containing maps of the property, which should have been completed in 2019;
  • Technical designs and working documents for the consolidation of Stele III were developed and submitted to the World Heritage Centre. The subsequent ICOMOS technical review has been forwarded to the consultants for their consideration in the implementation of the project. A contractor has been engaged to execute the project;
  • An International Assistance request was submitted in October 2018 to co-finance a capacity building project;
  • A site office was established in the property, staffed by a site manager, a conservation specialist and an interpretation officer. Staffing and expertise will be expanded in future;
  • An Advisory Committee consisting of wide range of stakeholders was legally constituted in May 2018. This Committee, chaired by the mayor of Aksum, meets every three months and reports directly to the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) through the site manager.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

The State Party reports progress on issues relating to the management system and maintenance of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies have been engaged to assist in developing an appropriate Management Plan for the property and in the consolidation of Stele III.

The 2013 joint UNESCO World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission and 2016 ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission both recommended that the 2007 Master Plan, the 2010 Thematic Master Plan and the 2016 Structure Plan be assessed through full Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) before their further implementation, but these recommendations have not been executed. The 2016 Structure Plan also remains to be submitted. The relationship between the 2016 Structure Plan and the 2010 Thematic Master Plan remains unclear. Some requests by the Committee for submission of information remain outstanding, and some of the 2013 and 2016 mission recommendations also remain unaddressed. For example, no further information has been provided to the World Heritage Centre on archaeological attributes discovered during the construction of the Church Museum, as requested by the Committee in 2015. It should be recalled that the Committee in 2013 adopted the 2013 Reactive Monitoring mission recommendation:: “Mitigation is required in the design of the west front of the office/laboratory block, to make it appear less than a pragmatic piece of architecture and to be more abstract – this can be achieved through articulating the façade as ‘one’ element e.g. with light filigree screening”.

The long delay in completing the Church Museum means that the concerns raised by the 2013 mission regarding the safeguarding of the Church Museum collection remain to be urgently addressed. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to submit a list of current and planned projects in the property and its buffer zone, along with appropriate HIAs.

Regrettably, the State Party has promulgated boundaries for the property and its buffer zone before these boundaries could be reviewed by the World Heritage Centre, and without submitting a minor boundary modification request, in conformity with Paragraph 164 of the Operational Guidelines, as requested by the Committee in 2013 and 2015. The World Heritage Centre is still awaiting the submission of detailed maps of the boundaries of the property as per Committee requests in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

ICOMOS’ technical review of the consolidation proposal for Stele III concluded that it was a high-risk operation that could directly negatively impact the property’s OUV, especially due to the already ascertained structural weakness of the proximate Tomb of the Brick Arches. ICOMOS recommended the State Party to augment the project design to include an independent monitoring programme, and advised that more information be submitted for review before the implementation of the project. Proposals for the stabilisation of the Mausoleum and to address the groundwater problems in the Tomb of the Brick Arches were also reviewed. In all cases, it was advised that the State Party provide additional information and augment the submitted documentation.

Finally, the armed conflict in the Tigray region that began in November 2020, gave cause for preoccupations that the property could be affected. In response to this crisis, it is appreciated that UNESCO mobilized all relevant culture Conventions to monitor the situation on the ground in close consultation with the UNESCO Field Office in Addis Ababa and the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) of Ethiopia. That no damage, destruction or looting has been confirmed at cultural heritage sites in Aksum, is noted with relief. However, in light of various third-party information received by the Secretariat of looting, destruction and potential threats to movable properties such as relics, crucifixes or ancient manuscripts, it is strongly recommended that the State Party:

  • Assess in detail, and in close cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and the Secretariats of all relevant UNESCO Culture Conventions, the impact of the conflict on the cultural heritage of the Tigray region, and in particular on the conservation and management of the property,
  • Ensure the safeguarding of the property through protective measures,
  • Engage, where necessary, in undertaking an emergency response through targeted actions, including by creating a full inventory of cultural heritage objects of the property and their state of conservation.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.4
Aksum (Ethiopia) (C 15)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.43, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Welcomes the establishment of the Advisory Committee for the management of the property as well as the State Party’s actions in planning capacity building for the site management;
  4. Also welcomes the State Party’s continued engagement with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies on technical matters and requests the State Party to continue this approach regarding the consolidation of the Stele III, the structural stabilisation of the Mausoleum and Tomb of the Brick Arches, and in addressing the ground water problem in the Tomb of the Brick Arches, and also requests the State Party to submit all documentation for the proposed interventions to the World Heritage Centre, and to only commence with implementation of these projects once full agreement on technical details and monitoring protocols has been reached with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  5. Notes the State Party’s reported progress in defining the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone and in providing a legislative context defining the conservation area, and urges the State Party to submit a minor boundary modification and detailed maps indicating the proposed property and buffer zone boundaries, as previously requested, and in conformity wth Paragraph 164 of the Operational Guidelines;
  6. Remains concerned about the management of the property and the impact of development projects in its setting, and also urges the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies:
    1. The 2016 Structure Plan,
    2. The Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) for both the 2010 Thematic Master Plan and 2016 Structure Plan that assesses their impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and a document clarifying the relationship between these plans,
    3. An updated timeline for the completion of the Church Museum, including the submission of the requested minor façade modification design, a report on the archaeological features uncovered during the excavation and construction of the Church Museum, and details on the conservation of the Church Museum collection,
    4. A report on the activities and accomplishments of the Advisory Committee and site management, specifically relating to the implementation of the Management Plan for the property,
    5. Details of all current and potential developments within the property and the buffer zone, together with appropriate HIAs, including for the developments commented upon by the 2016 mission, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Further requests the State Party to develop an Action Plan with timelines for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2013 and 2016 missions and previous decisions of the Committee, and to submit, by 1 February 2022, an electronic copy of this Action Plan, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Requests that, in light of various accounts of reports on looting, destruction and damage in the Tigray region, the State Party:
    1. Assesses in detail, and in close cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and the Secretariats of all relevant UNESCO Culture Conventions, the impact of the conflict on the cultural heritage of the region, and in particular on the conservation and management of the property,
    2. Ensures the safeguarding of the property through protective measures,
    3. Engages, where necessary, in undertaking an emergency response through targeted actions, including by creating a full inventory of cultural heritage objects of the property and their state of conservation;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, a progress report notably on the assessment of the impact of the recent conflict on cultural heritage in the Tigray region and on the protective measures taken, and by 1 December 2022, 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 46th session.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.3

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.43, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Welcomes the establishment of the Advisory Committee for the management of the property as well as the State Party’s actions in planning capacity building for the site management;
  4. Also welcomes the State Party’s continued engagement with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies on technical matters and requests the State Party to continue this approach regarding the consolidation of the Stele III, the structural stabilisation of the Mausoleum and Tomb of the Brick Arches, and in addressing the ground water problem in the Tomb of the Brick Arches, and also requests the State Party to submit all documentation for the proposed interventions to the World Heritage Centre, and to only commence with implementation of these projects once full agreement on technical details and monitoring protocols has been reached with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  5. Notes the State Party’s reported progress in defining the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone and in providing a legislative context defining the conservation area, and urges the State Party to submit a minor boundary modification and detailed maps indicating the proposed property and buffer zone boundaries, as previously requested, and in conformity wth Paragraph 164 of the Operational Guidelines;
  6. Remains concerned about the management of the property and the impact of development projects in its setting, and also urges the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies:
    1. The 2016 Structure Plan,
    2. The Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) for both the 2010 Thematic Master Plan and 2016 Structure Plan that assesses their impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and a document clarifying the relationship between these plans,
    3. An updated timeline for the completion of the Church Museum, including the submission of the requested minor façade modification design, a report on the archaeological features uncovered during the excavation and construction of the Church Museum, and details on the conservation of the Church Museum collection,
    4. A report on the activities and accomplishments of the Advisory Committee and site management, specifically relating to the implementation of the Management Plan for the property,
    5. Details of all current and potential developments within the property and the buffer zone, together with appropriate HIAs, including for the developments commented upon by the 2016 mission, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Further requests the State Party to develop an Action Plan with timelines for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2013 and 2016 missions and previous decisions of the Committee, and to submit, by 1 February 2022, an electronic copy of this Action Plan, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Requests that, in light of various accounts of reports on looting, destruction and damage in the Tigray region, the State Party:
    1. Assesses in detail, and in close cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and the Secretariats of all relevant UNESCO Culture Conventions, the impact of the conflict on the cultural heritage of the region, and in particular on the conservation and management of the property,
    2. Ensures the safeguarding of the property through protective measures,
    3. Engages, where necessary, in undertaking an emergency response through targeted actions, including by creating a full inventory of cultural heritage objects of the property and their state of conservation;
  9. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, a progress report notably on the assessment of the impact of the recent conflict on cultural heritage in the Tigray region and on the protective measures taken, and by 1 December 2022, 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 46th session in 2023.
          Report year: 2021
          Ethiopia
          Date of Inscription: 1980
          Category: Cultural
          Criteria: (i)(iv)
          Documents examined by the Committee
          SOC Report by the State Party
          Report (2019) .pdf
          Initialy proposed for examination in 2020
          arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
          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.


          top