1.         Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra (Albania) (C 569bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2005

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

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/569/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2002-2018)
Total amount approved: USD 80,416
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/569/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 1,367,014 is provided by the Albanian Government within the framework of the project 933 ALB 4000 “Safeguarding and restoration of selected monuments within the World Heritage site of the Old City of Gjirokastra – Albania”

Previous monitoring missions

November 2012: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; April 2016: ICOMOS Advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/569/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 1 December 2020, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/569/documents/, and provides information regarding a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions as follows:

The State Party informed the World Heritage Centre in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines about new plans for a by-pass road project in Gjirokastra on 20 January 2021, requesting review and recommendations from the Advisory Bodies to the project. In response to third party information submitted to the World Heritage Centre outlining the commencement of the construction of the Gjirokastra by-pass road project, further additional information was requested from the State Party in line with Paragraph 174 of the Operational Guidelines in a letter dated 16 March 2021. The State Party did not provide any further information or clarification until completion of this state of conservation report.

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

The State Party is making progress in improving the management system and state of conservation of both the Berat and Gjirokastra component of the property. The steps taken in implementing the legislation “On Cultural Heritage and Museums” and the required by-laws is very positive. It is likewise welcome that the State Party has committed to completing the IMP during 2021, based on the provisions of the HUL. This responds to a Committee request in 2016 and is funded through International Assistance approved in 2018.

Some of the proposals included in the PIUTD documentation submitted with the State Party’s report in Annexes 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 have been reviewed by ICOMOS and are generally found to be fit for purpose, with recommendations made to augment the designs of the proposals. The Committee may wish to request the State Party to address these recommendations, specifically those relating to the aesthetics of urban interventions, before implementation, and request that the information contained in the PIUTD submissions is used to inform the IMP under preparation. However, it should be noted that the PIUTD project focusses strongly on tourism as an economic basis for the future of the two components of the property. The Committee may wish to request the State Party to diversify its plans to develop a more economically resilient basis for the future of the property.

One component of the PIUTD project not included in the State Party’ state of conservation report is the Gjirokastra by-pass road. The by-pass project was already subject to an ICOMOS Technical review in 2016, which recommended the project be reconsidered, following which the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre in a letter dated 4 March 2019 of the suspension of the project. In January 2021, the State Party submitted to the World Heritage Centre a request for review by the Advisory Bodies of a redeveloped proposal for the Gjirokastra by-pass project, then already approved by the National Council on Tangible Cultural Heritage. Third party information received by the World Heritage Centre included documentation that sketches a very worrying situation of the project, which seems to be already under construction. The transmitted design implies the project to have a potential negative impact on the OUV of the property. This needs verification from the State Party, and it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to halt this project until a mission has assessed its impact on the OUV of the property and made recommendations.

Seeing the number of ongoing and future development plans, governance related questions as well as the conflicting reports on the state of conservation of this property, it is recommended that the Committee also request the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the progress in improving the state of conservation and the efficacy of development controls and monitoring indicators, as well as advise on the development of the IMP, and assess the by-pass road project.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.151

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7B.79, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Notes the implementation of the Law “On Cultural Heritage and Museums” and subsequent development of by-laws to create various cultural heritage councils to strengthen and improve the conservation and management of the property, the restoration and maintenance work undertaken during 2019 and 2020 to the built fabric of the property, and the implementation of the monitoring indicators and establishment of a system for building approvals in the management of the property and its buffer zones;
  4. Welcomes the submission of the various project proposals of the Project for Integrated Urban Development (PIUTD)-component, apart from the by-pass road for Gjirokastra and, noting that the PIUTD project has tourism development as central aim, requests the State Party to:
    1. take into account the comments and recommendations provided by ICOMOS to improve the projects presented in Annexes 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 of its state of conservation report, for the further development of the project proposals and before their implementation,
    2. await further review by the Advisory Bodies of the projects presented in the Annexes 6 and 7 of its state of conservation report before taking any further decisions about their implementation;
    3. diversify its development plans, to stimulate a broad resilient economic basis for the future of the property;
  5. Reiterates its request to the State Party that the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) be completed urgently taking on-board the previous requests of the Committee and be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before its implementation;
  6. Also notes the information received from the State Party in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines about new plans for a by-pass road in Gjirokastra and further notes third party reports that this by-pass road is already under construction, and therefore urgently requests the State Party to halt construction of the by-pass until such a time as a Reactive Monitoring mission has been able to visit the property to assess if the project has caused or will cause any damage to its Outstanding Universal Value;
  7. Further requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess progress made in the state of conservation of the entire property, provide guidance on the development of the IMP, evaluate the efficacy of development controls and monitoring indicators, and assess the Gjirokastra by-pass project;
  8. Encourages the State Party to continue providing the World Heritage Centre any development proposals before their official approval, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  9. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 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 45th session.