1.         Fortifications on the Caribbean Side of Panama: Portobelo-San Lorenzo (Panama) (C 135)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (i)(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/135/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-1993)
Total amount approved: USD 76,800
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/135/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

November 2001: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission. March 2010: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Deterioration and destruction of the fabric of the property by environmental factors, lack of a maintenance programme, as well as polluted water;

b) Erosion;

c) Absence of management policies included in management plans;

d) Uncontrolled urban development;

e) Tourism pressures (in particular at Portobelo).

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/135/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2010

The State Party provided a report on the state of conservation of the property on 1 February 2010. The report provides a description of the various fortifications and includes a technical format for recording the location and description of the monuments. The report however provides no detailed technical information, nor does it include actions to be undertaken for the conservation and management of the property, or on other requests made by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) such as the development of the draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value.

From 14 to 18 March 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission was carried out at the property as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009). The mission report is available online at the following Web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/135/documents/


a. Management System

The State Party did not submit information in this respect in its report. The working plan for the recently created Patronato of Portobelo-San Lorenzo was sent in September 2009.

The mission notes that the Patronato of Portobelo-San Lorenzo, founded in 2008 and integrated by the National Institute of Culture (INAC), the National Authority for the Environment (ANAM), the Tourism Authority (ATP) and the Colon Free Zone as well as three private entities from the business sector, is the current entity in charge of the property. The operational budget comes from funds allocated by the Central Government, as well as donations from private members and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Its Executive Director was appointed in March 2010 and USD 150,000 has been allocated to commence conservation actions. Although this constitutes a positive step, because of its recent creation, the achievements have been limited. An urgent aspect to be addressed is the coordination between the different entities at the site to streamline interventions and avoid duplicity of efforts and overlapping functions. The mission also noted that the effectiveness of the entity would also depend on the decisions and commitment of the highest levels of authority and its ministries, the Province of Colon and the Municipalities. There is still no clear national policy for the preservation of Panamanian World Heritage properties and this is reflected in the lack of provisions for their coherent planning and systematic management. Additionally, capacity building will need to be conducted as currently there are no local technical bodies specialised in territorial and urban planning, or in historic preservation, and technical orientation is limited at the local level.

b. State of Conservation

The State Party reports that San Lorenzo faces serious conservation problems as identified by the previous reactive monitoring mission in 2001, qualifying the current conditions from poor to fair and indicating some of the factors that have generated decay. The report also indicates that conditions vary in the severity of deterioration and notes some critical areas for intervention. The State Party reports that the Patronato de Portobelo y San Lorenzo will implement a condition assessment to evaluate the quantitative impact of the decay phenomena. It mentioned that there is a preventive conservation programme for the removal of macro vegetation and consolidation of affected structural elements.

The mission found that the Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports, including the significant decay of building fabric, derived from both environmental factors as well as the lack of a maintenance programme, the absence of management policies, uncontrolled urban development and tourism pressures, have not been addressed. Erosion by the sea is also evident, and some structures are in danger of collapsing. Conservation projects supported by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), the World Monuments Fund and the Spanish Agency for Cooperation and Development (AECID) have been interrupted or not implemented, along with a number of projects and proposals for action derived from initiatives such as the UNESCO/UNDP Regional Project for Cultural Heritage and Development (1983).

The mission assessed the current state of the different components of the property and considers that the degradation of the fabric over considerable areas is in a critical state and at risk of collapse and potential loss. Although these conditions can be partially attributed to natural processes and the lack of systematic interventions and regular maintenance, the impact of unregulated human activities has also generated deterioration of the fabric and has compromised their integrity and authenticity. Development pressures in Portobelo, arbitrary and spontaneous growth and uncontrolled constructions that result from the lack of coherent territorial and urban planning, despite developed plans, constitute a significant and increasing threat. This is further exacerbated as there are still no legally defined buffer zones for the property.

The Patronato’s Working Plan for 2010-2013 is a comprehensive document to address a wide variety of tasks ranging from the preservation of the monumental components of the property including both preventive and emergency actions, urban planning, orientation and control of tourism activities, education, information and research programs, management and monitoring, budget and fund raising, among the main issues. However no resources have been identified for the implementation of this Plan.

c. Other issues

The mission underscored that communities at both Portobelo and San Lorenzo have significantly differing interests and have no involvement in the protection of the property, leading to situations where conflict might easily arise. It noted that local awareness is limited and for many sectors of the community, heritage places are elements that hinder the implementation of large projects. There are currently no projects in place to stimulate community involvement and to jointly define projects to contribute to human development and an improvement in the quality of life. These are added to the various issues that threaten the physical fabric of the property.

The mission also noted that tourism is not a planned activity and there is no coherent policy currently in place for its development. Both the municipal authorities and the community indicate that derived benefits are very limited. Unplanned tourism activities, without any studies on potential impacts and means to mitigate them also constitute a significant decay factor and could exacerbate existing conditions if projects to develop additional infrastructure and facilities for tourism are implemented without holistic planning and the pertinent impact studies.

To conclude, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the limited recent efforts made to address the current conditions at the property, particularly the creation of the Patronato and the development of a working plan. However many necessary actions remain in the planning phase and long-time lack of systematic attention to the property, the lack of legally defined buffer zones and the discontinuity in implementation of planning tools and conservation projects, have compromised the attributes of the property and it is faced with significant threats to the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity that warranted the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are strongly concerned about the state of conservation of the property and 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 and in garnering the support at the international, national and local levels to ensure the conservation of the attributes that sustain the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

Within the framework of the Periodic Reporting exercise for the Region, the “Workshop on the preparation Retrospective Inventory, Retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value of the properties included in the World Heritage List and an introduction to the Second Cycle of the Periodic Reporting for the Latin America and Caribbean Region” took place in November 2009 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The focal point for Panama participated and was trained on how to produce the Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value which were to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by31 July 2010.

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


Decision Adopted: 34 COM 7B.112

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.140, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Notes with concern that the state of conservation report submitted by the State Party lacks sufficient detail to be considered as a full response to issues previously raised,

4. Also notes the results of the March 2010 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission, endorses its recommendations and urges the State Party to:

a) Implement emergency conservation measures at sectors at risk of collapse as identified in the Emergency Plan,

b) Formulate and fully implement the management plan for the property,

c) Define the boundaries and buffer zones for each of the inscribed components, including regulatory measures for their management,

d) Enact a policy for the property for the commitment at all levels for the conservation of the property;

5. Expresses its deep concern regarding the state of conservation of the property, in particular the significant degradation of the building fabric, limited ongoing preservation initiatives and the general lack of a maintenance programme which directly impacts the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

6. Requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a proposal for the Desired State of Conservation, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011;

7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the steps taken to implement the recommendations set out above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011.