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Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra

Albania
Factors affecting the property in 2023*
  • Governance
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • High impact research / monitoring activities
  • Housing
  • Illegal activities
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Lack of adequate fire fighting arrangements in the historic urban zone

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Ground transport infrastructure (planned by-pass road project and conversion of the bazaar into a pedestrian area in Gjirokastra)
  • Housing
  • Illegal activities (illegal construction dating from the late 1990s and later on)
  • High impact research/monitoring activities (lack of specific monitoring indicators)
  • Governance (lack of detailed tourism development plan and lack of programme of archaeological excavations)
  • Management activities (e.g. restoration work at the Berat Castle)
  • Management System/Management Plan
  • Other factors (lack of adequate firefighting arrangements in the historic urban zones)
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2023

Total amount granted: USD 1,367,014 is provided by the Albanian Government within the framework of the project 933 ALB 4000 “Safeguarding and restoration of selected monuments within the World Heritage site of the Old City of Gjirokastra – Albania”

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2023
Requests approved: 4 (from 2002-2018)
Total amount approved : 80,416 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to the property took place in December 2021. On 3 February 2022, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report including several annexes, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/569/documents/. Progress on a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions is presented, as follows:

  • Steps have been taken to further develop the legislative protection and management system created by Law no. 27/2018, ‘Cultural Heritage and Museums’ through the drafting and adoption of fourteen by-laws. The process continued in 2022;
  • The draft Integrated Management Plan (IMP) was due to be finalised by December 2022. Aspects already completed include the composition and submission of a preliminary programme and baseline documentation for submission to the World Heritage Centre, as well as the development of a plan for stakeholder information gathering and a preliminary stakeholder workshop plan;
  • As a consequence of the IMP and as required under the newly adopted Law no. 27/2018, the regulations for administration of both components will be updated and an integrated urban conservation and development tool will be developed;
  • The monitoring indicators developed in 2017-18 are being implemented by the Regional Directorates of Cultural Heritage of both Berat and Gjirokastra, which report to the National Institute for Cultural Heritage and the Ministry of Culture. A report on the indicators (Annex 1 of the State Party report) shows a large number of financial subsidies extended to private property owners, an increase in visitor numbers and an extension of fire-fighting infrastructure, but also a slight increase in reported illegal constructions during 2020-21;
  • Restorative maintenance has been undertaken on the built fabric of the property, with a photo-annex provided (Annex 2 of the State Party report);
  • Annexes submitted in the State Party report, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines detailing the following project proposals under the Project for Integrated Urban and Tourism Development (PIUTD) in Berat include:
    • Restoration of Urban Landscape Gorica,
    • Rehabilitation of Gorica Castle Trail,
    • Creation of a car parking near Gorica Bridge,
    • Restoration of the historic urban landscape of the Mangalem Quarter,
    • Relanscaping Selamlleku Square,
    • Urban upgrading Iljaz Vrioni Square;
  • The Gjirokastra Castle stabilization, restoration and upgrading of the museum infrastructure is nearing completion;
  • The Çerçiz Topulli Square underground parking project is ongoing with archaeological monitoring by the National Institute for Cultural Heritage;
  • The Gjirokastra bypass road, approved by the State Party on 15 January 2021, is continuing;
  • Noting the report of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission of December 2021, the State Party recorded its commitment to take into account the comments and recommendations included in the report regarding the PIUTD projects.

On 7 September 2022, the State Party submitted updated technical drawings for the Gjirokastra Bypass and a restoration project for the three historic footbridges over the Zerzebili river. Unfortunately, the information submitted was not in one of the Committee’s working languages. The submitted documentation includes approvals for an amendment to the Gjirokastra bypass road dated 1 July 2022.

Since the submission of its last state of conservation report in February 2022, the State Party has not shared with the World Heritage Centre any updates by the deadline of 1 March 2023, either on any significant changes in the state of conservation of the property, or on the measures taken to address the recommendations of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2023

The State Party had continued to progress in improving both the state of conservation and the protection and management system for the property, as was reported by the 2021 mission. However, it should be noted with regret that, after mid-February 2023, the State Party stopped communicating about progress in the implementation of international assistance and the further development and finalisation of the IMP it was to support, which remains unfinished. This is despite the fact that the contractual arrangements with the World Heritage Centre for international assistance expired on 1 June 2023. At this stage, the commitment demonstrated by the State Party in 2021 and 2022, following repeated Committee requests (Decisions 39 COM 7B.75, 41 COM 7B.40, 43 COM 7B.79 and 44 COM 7B.151 adopted in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021, respectively) to complete the development of the IMP, with the active involvement of stakeholders at national, regional and local level, seems compromised. The Committee should therefore urge the State Party to finalise the IMP as a matter of urgency, taking into account the comments and recommendations made by the Advisory Bodies in the context of the international assistance.

The roll-out of the PIUTD, financed by the World Bank, is progressing and the 2021 mission concluded that the project development, design and implementation is of high quality and standard, bringing a range of benefits to the citizens and visitors of Berat and Gjirokastra. This project has far-reaching beneficial, however, potentially also detrimental, consequences for the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The PIUTD focusses on tourism development and the State Party has been requested by the Committee (Decision 44 COM 7B.151) to diversify its development plans, to stimulate a broad resilient economic basis for the future of the property (Decision 44 COM 7B.151), which needs to be taken into account in the development of a long-term vision for the entire property and in the finalisation of the Integrated Management Plan. Considering the high number of ongoing and planned projects under the PIUTD and other development projects located within the property and/or its setting, the mission recommends that the State Party strategically assess the cumulative impact of all these projects on the OUV of the property.

The documentation submitted for some of the PIUTD components as an annex to the State Party report include preliminary studies and assessments (such as Environmental and Social Impact Assessments), in accordance with the high-quality standards required to qualify for World Bank financing. However, these impact assessments do not focus on the potential impact on the OUV of the property. For instance, no heritage impact assessment on the OUV of the property was conducted on the large-scale project of the Çerçiz Topulli Square before it was approved. The mission has recommended to the State Party that Heritage Impact Assessments should be a legal prerequisite for development projects and directly linked into the provisions of the regulations of both Berat and Gjirokastra. The PIUTD projects submitted as annexes to the State Party’s report all received approval before being submitted as annexes to the State Party’s report, and their potential individual and cumulative impacts on the OUV of the property has not been formally and fully assessed. The Committee may therefore wish to recall the provisions of Paragraphs 118bis and 172 of the Operational Guidelines.

It is unfortunate that the Gjirokastra bypass road project was resumed before the findings of the Reactive Monitoring mission of December 2021 (requested in Decision 44 COM 7B.151) were made available to the State Party in July 2022. It should also be noted that in the case of the bypass road, no Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) had been conducted either prior to its approval, or prior to the 1 July 2022 amendment. The 2021 mission noted that the bypass has an impact on the OUV of the property, both negative and positive, current and potential, but which must be properly assessed. Negative impacts should be avoided or, where no longer possible, mitigated. Therefore, the Committee may wish to request that a full independent HIA be completed as a matter of urgency and in conformity with the Guidance for Impact Assessment in a World Heritage Context, and before the construction of the bypass road reaches a point where no significant mitigation would be possible. The State Party should ensure that the identified mitigation measures are implemented and that any necessary modifications to the road are developed during the subsequent construction phase, where appropriate, to minimise the impact on the OUV of the property.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2023
45 COM 7B.51
Historic Centres of Berat and Gjirokastra (Albania) (C 569bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 7B.75, 41 COM 7B.40, 43 COM 7B.79 and 44 COM 7B.151 adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015), 41st (Krakow, 2017), 43th (Baku, 2019) and its extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Commends the State Party for the progress made in improving the state of conservation of the property, as well as for providing financial stimulus to private owners to undertake conservation and maintenance work;
  4. Welcomes the State Party’s commitment to upgrading urban regulations for both Berat and Gjirokastra and to developing an integrated urban conservation and development tool, and reiterates its request to the State Party to diversify its development plans for the property to stimulate a broad resilient economic basis for its future;
  5. Notes with regret the failure of the State Party to fully implement the international assistance granted for the development of the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for the property, in collaboration with governmental and civic sectors, despite Committee’s previous decisions, urges the State Party to finalise the IMP as a matter of urgency, taking into account the comments and recommendations already made by the Advisory Bodies in the context of the international assistance project and requests the State Party to submit a pre-final draft to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Further notes with regret the resumption of the construction of the Gjirokastra bypass road before the conclusions of the Reactive Monitoring mission of December 2021 were available and could be taken into account, and therefore also requests the State Party to urgently complete a full independent Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the Gjirokastra bypass road before its construction reaches a point where no significant mitigation would be possible, to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, and to ensure the implementation of the identified mitigation measures and the development of any necessary modifications to the road during the subsequent construction phase, where appropriate, to minimise impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  7. Further notes that the Gjirokastra bypass road is one of many development projects within/or in the setting of the property and neither the cumulative nor the individual impacts of all these development projects including of the Project for Integrated Urban and Tourism Development (PIUTD) on the OUV have been comprehensively assessed;
  8. Notes the conclusions and recommendations of the 2021 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission, and further requests the State Party to implement these in full, and in particular the following key recommendations:
    1. HIAs should be a legal prerequisite for development projects and directly linked into the provisions of the regulations of both Berat and Gjirokastra,
    2. The IMP must have proper legal status allowing for its effective implementation,
    3. A comprehensive long-term development strategy for the property, including tourism management should be developed, with a focus on enhancing synergies of the World Heritage property with the intangible and natural heritage of its wider setting, and linked to the IMP,
    4. A HIA of the cumulative impacts of the PIUTD and other development projects on the OUV of the entire property and its setting should be conducted,
    5. The bypass road in Gjirokastra should be fully reflected in the mobility plan for Gjirokastra currently under development to ensure the impacts on the OUV are taken into account,
    6. A landscape study of the valley (Gjirokastra), including the historic evolution and its use over time as well as its relationship with the town morphology, should be conducted as part of the HIA of the bypass road or separately;
  9. Also notes the submission of details for the restoration of the three footbridges over the Zerzebili River, requests furthermore the State Party, for all development projects that may affect the OUV of the property, to submit project details to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to any irreversible approval or decision, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and to commission, in accordance with Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines, HIAs focusing on the property’s OUV, to be carried out in conformity with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context, and recalls that these documents, or at least their executive summaries, should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre in one of the working languages of the Committee;
  10. Requests moreover the State Party to continue its efforts to limit the occurrence of illegal construction activities in the property;
  11. 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.
Draft Decision: 45 COM 7B.51

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decisions 39 COM 7B.75, 41 COM 7B.40, 43 COM 7B.79 and 44 COM 7B.151, adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015), 41th (Krakow, 2017), 43th (Baku, 2019) and its extended 44th (Fuzhou/online, 2021) sessions respectively,
  3. Commends the State Party for the progress made in improving the state of conservation of the property, as well as for providing financial stimulus to private owners to undertake conservation and maintenance work;
  4. Welcomes the State Party’s commitment to upgrading urban regulations for both Berat and Gjirokastra and its commitment to developing an integrated urban conservation and development tool, and reiterates its request to the State Party to diversify its development plans for the property to stimulate a broad resilient economic basis for its future;
  5. Notes with regret the failure of the State Party to fully implement the international assistance granted for the development of the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for the property, in collaboration with governmental and civic sectors, despite Committee’s previous decisions, urges the State Party to finalise the IMP as a matter of urgency, taking into account the comments and recommendations already made by the Advisory Bodies in the context of the international assistance project and requests the State Party to submit a pre-final draft to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Further notes with regret the resumption of the construction of the Gjirokastra bypass road before the conclusions of the Reactive Monitoring mission of December 2021 were available and could be taken into account, and therefore also requests the State Party to urgently complete a full independent Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the Gjirokastra bypass road before its construction reaches a point where no significant mitigation would be possible, to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, and to ensure the implementation of the identified mitigation measures and the development of any necessary modifications to the road during the subsequent construction phase, where appropriate, to minimise impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  7. Further notes that the Gjirokastra bypass road is one of many development projects within/or in the setting of the property and neither the cumulative nor the individual impacts of all these development projects including of the Project for Integrated Urban and Tourism Development (PIUTD) on the OUV have been comprehensively assessed;
  8. Notes the conclusions and recommendations of the 2021 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission, and further requests the State Party to implement these in full, and in particular the following key recommendations:
    1. HIAs should be a legal prerequisite for development projects and directly linked into the provisions of the regulations of both Berat and Gjirokastra,
    2. The IMP must have proper legal status allowing for its effective implementation,
    3. A comprehensive long-term development strategy for the property, including tourism management should be developed, with a focus on enhancing synergies of the World Heritage property with the intangible and natural heritage of its wider setting, and linked to the IMP,
    4. A HIA of the cumulative impacts of the PIUTD and other development projects on the OUV of the entire property and its setting should be conducted,
    5. The bypass road in Gjirokastra should be fully reflected in the mobility plan for Gjirokastra currently under development to ensure the impacts on the OUV are taken into account,
    6. A landscape study of the valley (Gjirokastra), including the historic evolution and its use over time as well as its relationship with the town morphology, should be conducted as part of the HIA of the bypass road or separately;
  9. Also notes the submission of details for the restoration of the three footbridges over the Zerzebili River, requests furthermore the State Party, for all development projects that may affect the OUV of the property, to submit project details to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies prior to any irreversible approval or decision, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and to commission, in accordance with Paragraph 118bis of the Operational Guidelines, HIAs focusing on the property’s OUV, to be carried out in conformity with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context, and recalls that these documents, or at least their executive summaries, should be submitted to the World Heritage Centre in one of the working languages of the Committee;
  10. Requests moreover the State Party to continue its efforts to limit the occurrence of illegal construction activities in the property;
  11. 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.
Report year: 2023
Albania
Date of Inscription: 2005
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
Initialy proposed for examination in 2022
arrow_circle_right 45COM (2023)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.