1.         Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela (Ethiopia) (C 18)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1978

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)

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/18/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1980-2000)
Total amount approved: USD 93,300
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/18/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property : USD 300,000 for the « Conservation Action Plan for Lalibela » (Norwegian Funds-in-Trust).

Previous monitoring missions

July 2004 and March 2005, World Heritage Centre missions; June 2006, World Heritage Centre ICOMOS / ICCROM reactive monitoring mission; March 2007, World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS monitoring mission; 2007, three follow-up missions for conservation projects by the World Heritage Centre and experts; March 2008, World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) No boundaries for the property nor for the buffer zone ;

b) Impact of the four recently constructed temporary shelters ;

c) Absence of a management plan for the property;

d) Insufficient urban and architectural regulations;

e) Urban development around the property;

f) Impact of rainwater and humidity ;

g) Geological and architectural characteristics of the churches.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/18/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

In accordance with earlier missions, the shelter project and the conditions for its implementation have been modified by the Authority for Cultural Heritage Research and Conservation (ARCCH), the State Party supervising body. The revised project was developed following the main recommendations made by the World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS / ICCROM reactive monitoring mission, and Decision 30 COM 7B.40 of the World Heritage Committee.

Work began in February 2007 and should have been completed just after the joint mission in April 2008. The temporary shelters have a rainwater evacuation system concentrated at one main point per shelter.

The present situation is as follows :

a) Works on the shelters were carried out respecting the integrity of the property ; the works caused no notable damage to the environment ; the microclimatic effects of the shelters on the monuments should however be carefully monitored. The evacuation of rainwater remains problematic and requires monitoring during the rainy season and, if necessary, modification;

b) The last shelter constructed over Biet Aba Libanos had been advised against by earlier missions due to a risk of landslides on the hill where the church is carved, which could potentially damage the church. Moreover, this church already has large cracks due to landslides that have occurred over time ;

c) The visual result of the shelters, although minimized in comparison to the original project, remains impressive, but is of a reversible nature and may be dismantled once a definite solution is found to waterproof the churches ;

d) Following this project, sustainable conservation and management solutions for the protection should be found without employing external physical means, and a regular monitoring on the effects of the shelters on the churches ;

e) The State Party has planned to carry out monthly monitoring of the shelters during the first year following the end of the works and requested the construction company to provide a maintenance and dismantlement plan of these shelters ;

f) Among those churches not protected by a shelter, Biet Gabriel Rufael requires restoration work; the World Heritage Centre is currently preparing a complete decay analysis ;

g) Different factors – pose a threat to the environment immediately surrounding the property, with no clearly defined buffer zone at present :

(i) Public and private constructions, and tourism infrastructures;

(ii) Potential widening and modification to roads and paths;

(iii) Urban development linked to the construction of housing units around the property;

(iv) Lack of urban and architectural regulations protecting the integrity of the property.

With regard to management, the present situation highlights the following issues :

a) No integrated management plan for the property ;

b) Need for participation by local communities concerning the property and its management plan.

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


Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.47

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decisions 30 COM 7B.40 and 31 COM 7B.46, adopted at its 30th (Vilnius, 2006) and 31st (Christchurch, 2007) sessions respectively,

3. Regrets that the State Party did not submit a report on the state of conservation of the property and the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value requested at the 31st session (Christchurch, 2007);

4. Commends the State Party for having extensively modified its temporary shelter project in accordance with the recommendations of the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and constructed them respecting the integrity of the property and its environment by using reversible constructions;

5. Requests the State Party:

a) to urgently undertake appropriate restoration and conservation measures for the Aba Libanos and Gabriel RufaelChurches;

b) to monitor closely:

i) the shelter of the Aba Libanos Church due to the unstable ground upon which the foundations are built;

ii) in general, the establishment of the temporary shelters, verify their effectiveness and possible impacts on the integrity of the monuments;

c) to clearly identify the boundaries of the property and an adequate buffer zone to allow for the control of construction and land development surrounding the property and the respect of its Outstanding Universal Value, notably by:

i) the production of maps and documents concerning the property and its environment;

ii) the implementation of suitable legal and regulatory protection;

iii) the study of suitable urban and infrastructural solutions;

6. Encourages the State Party to implement the Conservation Action Plan for the property. This Plan should, in particular:

a) identify and analyze the decay factors of the monuments;

b) identify and implement the most suitable sustainable solutions for the conservation of the property over and above the construction of the temporary shelters;

c) involve the local partners in the framework of sustainable economic and social development;

7. Reiterates its request to the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, including the conditions of authenticity and integrity, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;

8. Also requests the State Party to establish a management plan, with the assistance of the World Heritage Centre integrating the conservation action plan, the measures for sustainable development involving local populations and the touristic enhancement of the property, the regulatory provisions for the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone;

9. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property along with maps clearly identifying the boundary of the property and the buffer zone, and the construction of the shelters, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.