1.         Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace (Azerbaijan) (C 1549rev)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2019

Criteria  (ii)(v)

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/1549/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1549/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Factors affecting the property identified at the time of inscription:

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1549/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 30 November 2020, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1549/documents and reports progress in implementing the recommendations of the Committee adopted at its 43rd session (43 COM 8B.36), as follows:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The work undertaken by the Management team over the past two years is impressive, considering the challenges that were identified at the time of inscription. The revised Management Plan, the new CMP, the URP, and their associated documents have a clear relationship to each other, are based on well-articulated attributes of OUV, and overall, have structures that are mainly consistent and logical.

It is encouraging to note that the overall strategy for the property and its buffer zone is to limit new development and promote appropriate re-use of existing buildings, and that the URP stresses the ‘preservation of the main attributes of garden city concept including gardens and water system’ and ‘ensures and encourages public participation in the planning and implementation of urban regeneration strategies’.

It is noted that all these documents have now been approved. Given the complexity of their implementation, it is suggested that some parts will need reviewing to ensure their effectiveness, particularly in relation to regulatory zones, monitoring, protection of the natural setting, and materials for restoration and rehabilitation. 

The urban zoning for the effective use and regulation of the property, as set out in the URP is a good start, but its parameters need to be more detailed and specific for full effectiveness. Currently, there is no distinction between the regulation zones for most of the property and the buffer zone, and the boundaries of some zones cut across the property boundaries. The strongest protection zone covers the area around the Khan’s Palace and some individual buildings, while the second moderate protection zone covers buildings facing streets, with the remaining urban areas of the property and buffer zone comprising the third ‘soft’ zone, on the grounds that ‘they are not visible for the visitors much’. It is recommended that the State Party be requested to ensure that the urban zones clearly distinguish between the property and its buffer zone. Although the CMP stresses the integrity of the ‘planned, productive garden city’, in relation to the form and designs of dwellings, and the use of surrounding gardens framed by irrigation canals, and the Management Plan well analyses these, they are inadequately defined and protected by the urban zones.

A further concern is that although the crucial and symbiotic role of the surrounding forest is clearly recognised in the Management Plan, and its “urbanization” seen as a potential threat, the combined documents submitted do not yet provide a clear understanding of how this potential threat will be adequately managed.

The overall coherence of the property relates to the accretion of urban landscape and architectural details. The need for monitoring any gradual degradation of these details is well observed and forms part of the Action Plan (part of the Management Plan), and is also stressed in the State Party’s report, but what remains unclear is how this process will be carried out to inform management. Detail is also pertinent to the restoration manual. While this is a helpful document for owners, it is considered that its recommendations should be more carefully worded in relation to the use of non-traditional materials and structural stabilization methods for the restoration of traditional houses, if the authenticity of the ensemble is not to be weakened cumulatively over time.

The upgrading of the Reserve to national status is to be welcomed in terms of both the additional protection it provides and the additional resources for staff. 

Given the huge effort that has been put into upgrading and developing aspirational and ambitious management documents, it is considered crucial that the specific weaknesses identified here are considered now before implementation becomes entrenched.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.153

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 8B.36, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Welcomes the impressive work that has been undertaken over the past two years to develop an ambitious and aspirational suite of management documents consisting of a revised Management Plan, a new Conservation Master Plan, a new Urban Regeneration Plan, an Emergency Plan, and manuals for Restoration and Infill Design;
  4. Particularly welcomes the focus of the Urban Regeneration Plan on the ‘preservation of the main attributes of garden city concept including gardens and water system’ ensuring and encouraging ‘public participation in the planning and implementation of urban regeneration strategies’, as well as the overall scope of the documents;
  5. Also welcomes the upgrading of the Yukhari Bash Reserve to national status, with the resulting additional protection and resources for staff;
  6. Notes that although the management documents have now been approved and submitted, given the complexity of their implementation, some measures would need reviewing to ensure their effectiveness, and requests the State Party to:
    1. Re-assess and re-frame the urban protection zones to provide a clearer explanation of what they aim to protect across the city, not just in areas visible to visitors, in relation to the parameters of the ‘planned, productive garden city’ such as the design and form of dwellings, and the use of gardens framed by a network of irrigation canals,
    2. Ensure the urban zones, respect the property boundaries and clearly define differences between the property and its buffer zone, by strengthening protection within the property and making modifications, where necessary, to the boundaries of zones,
    3. Define more clearly how development threats to the surrounding forest, which has a crucial and symbiotic role as the backdrop to the city, will be managed,
    4. Provide more details of the monitoring system in relation to potential gradual degradation of urban landscape and architectural details that cumulatively provide coherence to the garden city, and how the system will inform management,
    5. Consider how the recommendations of the Restoration Manual might be more carefully worded in relation to the use of non-traditional materials and structural stabilization methods for the restoration of traditional houses, in order to ensure that the authenticity of the ensemble is not weakened cumulatively over time;
  7. Urges the State Party to consider the above listed specific weaknesses of the plans before implementation becomes entrenched in order to optimise the benefits of the huge efforts that have been put into the development of the management documents;
  8. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, 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.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 8B.67

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/8B.Add,
  2. Adopts the Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for the following World Heritage properties inscribed at previous sessions of the World Heritage Committee: