1.         Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) (N 1263)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2008

Criteria  (x)

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/1263/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2017-2023)
Total amount approved: USD 131,560
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

December 2012: IUCN mission; June 2014: IUCN/Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (ARC-WH) mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1263/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 28 January 2022, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/ and reports the following progress:

Due to logistical constraints, the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission remains in planning and will be undertaken as soon as possible.

In late January 2023, a spill from an oil tanker stranded at the Delisha Nature Sanctuary since November 2019, was reported, raising concerns over the potential impact on the marine environment. The State Party submitted a request for Emergency Assistance through the World Heritage Fund in order to support efforts in addressing this threat, which has been approved.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

It remains concerning that the on-going insecurity and economic crisis in Yemen continues to impact management capacity, including the lack of government budget for environmental conservation in Socotra. The on-going commitment of the authorities to prioritise conservation and facilitate research and conservation activities in collaboration with international partners, in spite of these considerable difficulties, should be commended.

Recalling the unique biodiversity and high level of endemism in the property, the on-going activities under the GEF-UNEP project to monitor and control IAS, specifically the planned establishment of quarantine measures at air and seaports and development of a participatory IAS control strategy, are positive. It is recommended that the IAS control strategy be finalized and appropriate control measures implemented in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. Recognising that capacity to enforce biosecurity measures remains limited, the effective implementation of the strategy remains the critical challenge to be addressed going forward.

Noting the concerns raised in recent years regarding unregulated development pressures, the establishment of an EIA requirement for all development projects on Socotra is a significant positive step towards ensuring that developments do not negatively impact on its OUV. Whilst also noting with concern the reported difficulties in halting development activities during a time of security and economic crisis, and with limited capacity to implement the CZP, it will be vital that the new EIA regulation is effectively implemented. Impact assessments must be in line with the new Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context, to guide best-practice planning and decision-making, to ensure that the potential impacts of planned projects are assessed prior to taking any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, and to ensure that no projects are approved that may negatively impact the OUV. It is recommended that further guidance and support be requested from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN on the implementation of impact assessments. It is noted that developments are reported to be mostly limited to the urban development zones, that development in the buffer zones is regulated by environmental standards, and that these are being incorporated in the update of the CZP. However, whilst the maps of developments are appreciated, the exact nature of these developments and their potential impact on the OUV remains unclear. The anticipated finalization of the CZP, as well as the effective implementation of environmental regulations and impact assessments, will be important steps to improve the management of the property, requiring further capacity building and stakeholder engagement.

It is regrettable that no further details have been provided on the reported impacts that have occurred in some national parks or protected areas. While noting that protected area management plans will be initiated or updated to address all sensitive biodiversity areas and sustain local natural resource use, it is unclear however how these relate to the update of the CZP and overall management of the property. Clarity on these issues should be requested.

Noting the potential impacts of an oil spill on the OUV of the property, particularly its marine ecosystem, it is recommended to request the State Party to provide further information regarding the impacts of the spill on the OUV, including to conduct an assessment of impacts on the marine values, to conduct a risk assessment on the vessel to prevent further spills, and to report on any response measures undertaken. It is expected that the recently approved Emergency Assistance through the World Heritage Fund will facilitate the completion of these activities.

Whilst the State Party’s on-going actions to address threats to the property under very difficult conditions are commended, the impacts of the many threats on the OUV such as IAS, developments in the buffer zone, plastic pollution, financial and staffing capacity limitations, remain to be fully addressed. It is recommended that the joint Reactive Monitoring mission be conducted as soon as possible to assess the state of conservation of the property and provide technical guidance to the State Party.

Decision Adopted: 45 COM 7B.12

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 42 COM 7B.100, 43 COM 7B.1 and 44 COM 7B.88 adopted at its 42nd (Manama, 2018), 43rd (Baku, 2019) and extended 44th (Fuzhou/online) sessions respectively,
  3. Welcomes the State Party’s on-going commitment to strengthen management measures in collaboration with international partners in spite of significant capacity constraints due to the challenging ongoing political instability and economic crisis in Yemen;
  4. Notes with concern that on-going political instability and the economic crisis continue to impact the capacity for effective management of the property, and calls on the international community to support the State Party in its efforts to ensure the effective protection and management of the property;
  5. Recalling the high level of endemism in the property and the potentially devastating impacts of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), also welcomes the on-going activities under the UNEP-GEF programme to establish port quarantine measures and prepare a participatory IAS control strategy, and requests the State Party, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, to urgently finalise such IAS control strategy and implement biosecurity measures to ensure the threat is effectively managed;
  6. Takes note that developments are reported to be mostly limited to urban development zones, that development in the buffer zone is regulated by environmental standards, and that these standards are being incorporated in the review and update of the Conservation Zoning Plan (CZP), and also requests that the CZP is finalised as a matter of priority and submitted to the World Heritage Centre;
  7. Noting the report of impacts in some national parks or protected areas, further requests the State Party to provide further information regarding these impacts in relation to the OUV, and to clarify how the initiation or update of protected areas management plans to address all sensitive biodiversity areas and sustain local natural resource use, would relate to the update of the CZP and the overall integrated management of the property;
  8. Commends the State Party on the adoption of a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirement for all developments on Socotra, and urges the State Party and all stakeholders involved in development projects to ensure that it is implemented in line with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context, including to:
    1. Ensure that any planned development is subject to a rigorous assessment of potential impacts on the OUV of the property, prior to taking any decision that would be difficult to reverse, and to halt any ongoing development and not proceed with any new development that could negatively impact the OUV;
    2. Evaluate the potential impacts of existing infrastructure developments that have not undergone EIAs, in the context of the new regulations;
    3. Ensure that appropriate environmental standards to regulate activities in the property and its buffer zone are incorporated into the updated CZP and that their enforcement is ensured;
  9. Notes the positive actions that are being taken to address threats to the OUV of the property, however, reiterates its utmost concern about the potential impacts of those different threats, including uncontrolled development, unsustainable use of natural resources, climate change, plastic pollution, lack of sustainable funding and insufficient biosecurity measures to avoid the introduction of IAS, and considers that the cumulative effect of these factors could represent a potential danger to the OUV of the property;
  10. Notes with concern the potential impact of an oil spill in January 2023 from an oil tanker stranded at the Delisha Nature Sanctuary since November 2019 on the OUV of the property, particularly its marine environment, requests furthermore the State Party to provide further information on the impacts of the spill on the OUV, including to conduct an assessment of the impacts on the marine ecosystem, to conduct a risk assessment on the vessel to avoid further spills, and to report on any response measures undertaken, with the support of Emergency Assistance provided through the World Heritage Fund;
  11. Reiterates its request for the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to be undertaken as soon as possible, to assess the current state of conservation of the property, in particular in relation to the above-mentioned threats, and to determine whether the property meets the conditions for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
  12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2024, 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, considering that the urgent conservation needs of this property require a broad mobilization to preserve its OUV, including the possible inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.