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


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.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Severe deterioration of historic buildings that threatens the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

b) Conflicting interests of different stakeholders with regard to the use, management and conservation of the historic centre;

c) Limited capacity for the rehabilitation and maintenance of historic structures;

d) Deficiencies in the implementation of the legislative framework for protection;

e) Lack of implementation of clear conservation and management policies for the property;

f) Demolition of urban ensembles and buildings;

g) Forced displacement of occupants and squatters;

h) Urban development projects within the protected area (i.e. Cinta Costera).

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

The State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property on 11 February 2011. From 27 to 31 October 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at it 34th session (Brasilia, 2010). The mission report is available online at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/35COM/

a) Buffer zone

The State Party reports that the buffer zone for one of the property’s components, the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo, was legally established in 2007 along with regulatory measures which include restrictions for land use. The mission reports that the buffer zone is being adequately managed and regulations are being enforced.

As for the other component, the Historic District of Panama, the State Party reports that work has continued on cartographically identifying the potential limits, establish zoning and define regulatory measures that would allow for a controlled transition between the historic centre and the modern city. As part of the process, public hearings have been held to gain feedback and consensus on the proposal. An action plan for the creation of the buffer zone was included in the report which foresees continuation of works through September 2011. However, no potential date for completion, which would entail the Enactment of the Act and publication on the Official Gazette, has been included. The mission noted that the proposal has not been concluded and no legal support exists yet. It highlighted concerns about proposals for large scale developments in the area foreseen as a buffer zone.

b) Legislative framework and policies for the property

The report provides information on the existing laws and decrees for the property and indicates that currently Law No. 9, pertaining to tax incentives, and Law No. 14, related to protection measures and management, are under review. The mission noted that additional means to legally protect the property are being explored, including the potential declaration of the Historic Centre as a special district, as a recommendation given by the mission to the President of Panama. A recent agreement has been signed between the Office of the Historic District (OCA) and the Patronato of Panama Viejo to enhance coordination of actions undertaken for the conservation and rehabilitation of both component sites of the property. The mission notes however that this has yet to be operational.

The State Party also reports that the creation of a National Commission for World Heritage has been decided. The mission noted that this Commission is currently undergoing legal approval to get the status of a Presidential Decree.

As for preservation and protection policies, the report notes that criteria and guidelines for intervention have been established and are enforced for Panama Viejo. In the case of the Historic District, regulations and guidelines are based on an Executive Decree which calls for Normative and Procedures for restoration and rehabilitation of the Historic District. New proposals are currently being developed to make their implementation, and the sanction process for transgressions, more effective. The mission notes that although this framework exists, there are important deficiencies in its enforcement and a clear and overarching policy for the Historic District is still missing.

c) Management arrangements and resources

The State Party provided figures for interventions at both components of property, including rehabilitation and restoration, social programmes, dissemination and cultural activities. It also reports that human resources have been increased and teams have been created to address diverse issues. Additional staff benefited from diverse training activities throughout 2010.

The mission underscored that although progress has been made, management arrangements are still not efficiently operating. Factors that hinder the efficacy of the management system include the lack of sufficient authority to enforce regulations and apply sanctions in various processes that occur at the Historic Centre, the insufficiency, complexity and overlaps in existing legal instruments and the lack of an updated and legally supported Master Plan for the Historic Centre. In addition, other planning tools have not been articulated with those for the World Heritage property, resulting in conflicting agendas and priorities and significant challenges remain in addressing issues such as property ownership. Finally, the mission considers that the technical and financial resources available for the Historic District are largely insufficient to adequately deal with the threats to the property.

The situation is different with the management of the Archaeological Site of Panama Viejo. In that case, the Patronato adequately and efficiently functions and has adequate resources for conservation, protection and research activities, largely in part to fund-raising efforts.

d) State of conservation of the property

The mission expressed its concern regarding the Historic Centre particularly in regard to the existence of a significant number of largely deteriorated and neglected historic buildings, the continuing gentrification process, and issues of poverty and living conditions, insecurity and vehicular traffic.

As for Panama Viejo, the mission noted that the overall state of conservation is satisfactory and reiterated that the Avenida Cincuentenario remains the main threat. New proposals have been identified for the deviation of this avenue and there are indications that the Ministry of Public Works will implement the alternative presented by the Patronato.

e) Cinta Costera Project

No information was provided by the State Party on this decision by the World Heritage Committee. The mission verified that the Cinta Costera Phase 2 project is currently under accelerated construction at the Historic District´s former harbour area known as Terraplén. No environmental and heritage impact assessments have been submitted for review in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. The mission also visited the underground parking area presently under construction as part of the project and noted the massiveness of the structure and its impact on the scale of the surroundings.

The mission considers that Phase 3 of the project would pose an even larger threat to the integrity of the property. There are currently two alternatives for the route, the first one surrounding the Historic District and the second one traversing the Historic District with a tunnel. The mission considers that the first alternative is unacceptable as it would transform the District´s traditional form and image on its coastline, an important part of the values for which warranted inscription on the World Heritage List. The second alternative, besides being too expensive, could entail risks to the structural stability of the old and deteriorated built heritage. No studies on their physical, social or functional impacts and risks have been undertaken at the present time.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are deeply concerned about the state of conservation of the property and the threats that remain unaddressed including the ineffectiveness of the management system and governance, the lack of conservation of historic buildings, the increase in real estate speculation, inappropriate new developments and the gentrification process at the Historic Centre. They further consider that on-going development of the Cinta Costera, in spite of the decisions made by the World Heritage Committee and the recommendations of reactive monitoring missions, constitutes a threat to the attributes that sustain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the World Heritage Committee might wish to include the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in order to assist the State Party in addressing the significant threats to the property. 

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.130

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.113, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Notes the efforts made by the State Party to improve the state of conservation of the property, in particular in aspects referring to the management system and the suspension of the implementation of the Cinta Costera project within the property;

4. Also notes the commitment of the State Party to submit for evaluation of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, all projects, studies and proposals related to alternatives for future works of the Cinta Costera, including technical specifications for the project, as well as heritage impact assessments for review prior to approval;

5. Further notes the results of the October 2010 joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission, endorses its recommendations and requests the State Party to:

a) Complete a comprehensive and legally supported policy for the property,

b) Complete and approve the establishment of the Historic District as a special district, and delimit and define the boundaries of the property for submission to the World Heritage Centre, and define its buffer zones including its regulatory framework for approval by the World Heritage Committee,

c) Make operational a single responsible management authority for the property to ensure the coordination of activities at both components of the property and the enforcement of regulatory measures,

d) Complete the review of the Emergency Plan submitted in 2009, identify priority measures for implementation and a practical plan for implementation, including required resources,

e) Discontinue the construction of the Cinta Costera Project Phase 3 which would potentially have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and submit to the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies, in line with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, alternatives including technical specifications for the project, as well as heritage impact assessments for review prior to approval;

6. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, 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 36th session in 2012.