1.         Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá (Panama) (C 790bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(vi)

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/790/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/790/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

March 2009: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; March 2010: on the occasion of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to Portobelo and San Lorenzo, a technical visit to the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo and the Historic District was undertaken, as requested by the authorities of Panama; October 2010: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2013: Joint High level World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/790/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

In 2019, the State Party of Panamá submitted a significant boundary modification of the property "Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panamá" (C 790bis), with the aim to transform it, by including several other sites and excluding the component of the Historic District of Panamá, into a serial property under the name of “Colonial Transisthmian Route of Panamá”. The World Heritage Committee (Decision 43 COM 8B.40) deferred the request and asked for a resubmission for its examination in 2022.

On 1 December 2020, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/790/documents/ and addresses the inscribed World Heritage property, taking as the baseline for the analysis, the current Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (Decision 37 COM 8E). Progress in a number of measures requested by the Committee at its previous sessions is presented, as follows:

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

The new General Law of Culture (approved by Act 175 of 3 November 2020) establishes, among others, principles, regulations, attributions and commitments of the State. It defines the concepts of the Historic Urban Landscape and lays the legal foundation for the protection of the landscape surrounding historic sites or monuments. In order to better understand the dimension of these changes, it is recommended that the Committee request the submission of the text of the new law, and a detailed explanation of the impact of the institutional and legislative change on the property’s protection.

In response to previous Committee requests, the State Party has initiated preliminary work on three-dimensional viewshed and view corridor analysis and concluded that the existing zoning within the buffer zone of Panama Viejo is effective. The elements having a visual impact on the component’s integrity are found to be outside the established buffer zone. While the State Party’s report shows some photos of the visually discordant elements, it is not always clear what and where they are, since they are not accompanied by a map. This also makes it difficult to assess the reported progress in mitigating the discordant elements of the Archaeological Site environment with the use of strategically located vegetation screens. However, in this context it is noted that the Patronato de Panama Viejo has planned the review and evaluation of the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of the Cultural Landscape of the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo, implemented since 2014, and to strengthen the plan by developing a Panama Viejo Landscape Action Plan.

The proposed Land Use Plan of the District of Panama aims at including the property’s components within the planning structures of the metropolitan city, proposes new protection codes for the components’ immediate surroundings, and protects elements of natural value. Such a planning tool can be very important for the protection of the integrity of the property and its wider setting. However, it is still pending approval by the municipal authorities. No consideration has been given to the possibility of extending the buffer zone of the Panama Viejo component, as suggested by the Committee. At this point, it is unclear if the plan is a valid substitute for the recommended buffer zone extension since no detailed information on the plan was made available.

While the reported advances indicate the efforts of the State Party to develop a more integral concept of protection, no detailed information was offered regarding ongoing development projects that have the potential to impact on the property values, both inside the buffer zone of Panama Viejo (Panama Viejo Business Centre) and outside (Costa del Mar ocean front development).

It is noted with regret that the Committee’s recommendation to develop and fully implement a Heritage Impact Assessment approach into the management systemwas not taken up by the State Party. Neither was the extension of the Historic District buffer zone, an initiative proposed by the Oficina del Casco Antiguo (OCA), the Dirección Nacional de Patrimonio Histórico (DNPH) and the Municipality, and welcomed by the Committee.

In conclusion, the State Party should be commended for the very positive advances it has made in a year complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It should be encouraged to continue the implementation of social and economic initiatives, such as the Economic Reactivation Plan for Panama City's Casco Antiguo in order to support the local communities facing the present context. Nevertheless, many reported activities and planning tools have no clear timeframe. The State Party should urgently start to approve and apply the more integral concept of heritage protection, expressed through many of the new planning tools, for which the legal bases are being created with the new General Law of Culture and the Land Use Plan for the District of Panamá.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.168

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 8E, 37 COM 7B.100, 40 COM 8B.34, 41 COM 7B.63, and 43 COM 7B.101, adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016), 41st (Krakow, 2017), and 43rd (Baku, 2019) sessions, respectively,
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s efforts and social initiatives undertaken, including the Economic Reactivation Plan with the aim to support local communities, and encourages the authorities to continue its implementation to the extent possible;
  4. Commends the State Party for the renovation of the legal and institutional framework, and requests the submission of the relevant documentation (texts of the laws) and an explanation of the impact of these changes on the protection of the property;
  5. Also commends the State Party for its close collaboration with the developers of building projects, and also encourages the State Party to strengthen this collaboration and community outreach, especially in view of the legal changes that will entail a more inclusive heritage protection;
  6. Also requests the State Party to finalize the study of the viewsheds and a visual corridor analysis for Panama Viejo;
  7. Further requests the State Party to finalize, approve and submit to the World Heritage Centre for review, together with descriptions of their impact on the property and a timeframe for their finalization, the following planning tools:
    1. The Panama Viejo Landscape Action Plan,
    2. The Natural Disaster and Risk Management Plan,
    3. The Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Plan,
    4. The updated Archaeological Site Management Plan of Panama Viejo,
    5. The Land Use Plan for the District of Panama;
  8. Notes with regret that no information has been offered concerning the development and implementation of a Heritage Impact Assessment procedure as a standard for interventions on cultural heritage in wider settings, and furthermore requests the State Party to explore its inclusion, for example, in the Land Use Plan for the District of Panama and the updated Archaeological Site Management Plan of Panama Viejo;
  9. Requests moreover 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.