1.         Royal Palaces of Abomey (Benin) (C 323bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1985

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    1985-2007

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/323/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1985-1997)
Total amount approved: USD 113,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/323/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 400,000 was granted by the Government of Japan in 1998; USD 50,000 granted in 2005 by the Riksantikvaren (Norwegian Cultural Heritage Directorate).

Previous monitoring missions

2004 and 2007: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS missions; 2006: World Heritage Centre / CRAterre-ENSAG / Getty Conservation Institute monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Absence of a national legislative mechanism for the protection of cultural heritage;

b) Major deterioration of almost 50% of the earthen structural components;

c) Lack of presentation and interpretation at the site.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/323/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2010

The State Party submitted its state of conservation report on 28 March 2010. The report provides information on the major rehabilitation, capacity building, and other related activities undertaken in the framework the State Party’s effort to pursue the safeguarding works started in 2007. The described activities undertaken are hereafter summarized.

 

a) Progress in conservation works undertaken on the remaining components still under threat

The State Party reports on the achievement of four major reconstruction activities since 2008:

- The reconstruction of Houegbadja Palace which included reconstructing 200 linear meters of fencing walls, the Logodo covered entrance, and the Tassinonxo royal priestess’ house. It was co-financed by Germany and the State Party through the Public Investment Plan.

- The reconstruction and enhancement of the Honnuwa of Agadja Palace. The project was co-financed by the City of Albi (France), Norway Cultural Heritage Directorate (Rijksantikvaren) through UNESCO, and the Africa 2009 Programme, and involved on-the-job training of ten young professionals to ensure the transfer of restoration techniques and know-how for a sustainable result.

- Reconstruction of the Akaba Palace which included 1496 linear meters of wall, as well as several buildings amongst which the Logodo entrance to the inner court yard, the Djêxo spirit houses, and the Adjalala Ministers’ counsel room. This particular reconstruction was funded by the National Public Investment Plan.

 

b) 21 January 2009 fire

A fire which occurred on 21 January 2009 damaged five tombs and one shrine of the property and required immediate action for urgency restoration works. The event attracted wide public attention through national media coverage and visits of several high level national representatives and personalities, who called for support among the stakeholders. Subsequently, damage repair works of the walls, the roofs, the bas-reliefs, the electrical installations and the traditional ahlihans decoration was financed by the State Party through the Public Investment Plan, and supported by several private donors, among which members of the Royal Family, and the School of African Heritage (EPA).

 

c) Conservation and management

The report states that the main priority objectives of the management plan (2007-2011) have been achieved through the reported activities. Identification and development of best conservation practices are ensured through the daily supervision and maintenance of the site as a systematic practice for preventive and curative conservation. In terms of capacity building for regular maintenance and visitors’ services, diverse workshops in cooperation with EPA’s, ISESCO’s and the Louvre Museum of France, and two sessions of the management counsel were organized at the site. A historical research project in preparation of an exhibition at the Museum of Quai Branly in Paris (November 2009 – January 2010) further contributed to this objective. The objectives of both were improved knowledge of the tangible and intangible values of the property, the progressive improvement in the state of conservation, better visitor services and improved income generating processes.

 

d) Pursuance of funding strategy for conservation activities and enhancement of the property

Several statistics in the report set out a continuous increase of visitors and sales income in the past years. This positive trend is explained as being the results of a successful approach aimed at increasing income in line with the objectives of the conservation and management plan. Further to sales income, and the Museums’ development fund benefiting the site by 75% of the generated income (e.g. for promotion, maintenance, and security purposes) the Ministry of Culture provided technical equipment to the site management team (power unit, motorbike, etc). By means of a diversification of cultural events and the opening of yet inaccessible buildings to the public, the property should attract more visitors, and the increased income should serve to finance the remaining desired conservation.

 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the state of conservation of the site has improved considerably, and are of the opinion that the objectives set out in the management plan are well met by the State Party through careful daily monitoring of the site, capacity building and promotional activities as well as through the successful completion of restoration works. The State Party should therefore hold on to its strategy and efforts in keeping up this positive trend of the last years since removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2007. However, risk preparedness management measures should be put in place in order to avoid again incidents like the 2009 fire. Further, in the endeavor to increase visitor’s frequency and the properties’ public accessibility and enhancement, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that it could be beneficial to develop a cultural tourism strategy as an adjunct to the management plan.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies reiterate the need for a reconstruction policy document for the palaces that takes into consideration the objectives of the 2007-2011 management and conservation plan.

 

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

N/A

Decision Adopted: 34 COM 7B.43

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.45, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Notes with satisfaction the accomplishment of several rehabilitation projects and the successful cooperation with international partners;

4. Also notes the application of the principles set out in the management and conservation plan in terms of optimizing and taking advantage of the socio-economic potential of the property and capitalizing on its tangible and intangible cultural values;

5. Reiterates its encouragement to the State Party to pursue its funding strategy for conservation activities and presentation through income generated at the property and to seek additional funding to complete the pending restoration works e.g. of the walls as set out in the current conservation and management plan;

6. Encourages the State Party to consider the development of a cultural tourism strategy as an adjunct to the 2007-2011 management and conservation plan;

7. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to submit as a matter of urgency and before 1 December 2010, a reconstruction policy document for the palaces, that takes into consideration the objectives of the 2007-2011 management and conservation plan;

8. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, a report on the state of conservation of the property for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.