JUL 2019: Cultural experts ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) provide the in-depth analysis to allow implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. As with most professional bodies, they believe that Macedonia’s Ohrid region meets the criteria for World Heritage in Danger.

Below find the full ICOMOS speech to the 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku.

The concerns expressed in the State of Conservation Report relate to concerns that have been reported to the [World Heritage] Committee for just over 30 years, and they arise from the cumulative erosion of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value and not just from the impact of one or more major projects.

At the time of inscription of this mixed property in 1980, the well-preserved towns of Ohrid and Struga were set in an almost untouched natural landscape, which was seen to be of exceptional beauty and an essential part of their setting.

By 1988, the first mission to the property noted the enormous increase in constructions and settlement activities that had seriously altered the original balance in the region with the town of Struga having grown to incorporate new communities. It also noted that the economic and demographic developments posed threats to the values of the property and needed to be addressed through an integrated approach and protective measures that linked cultural and natural heritage preservation. The mission report called for a special legal framework for the World Heritage Site, strengthening of management, and the preparation of a spatial plan.

Nearly all these measures are still needed.

A further mission was invited in 2013 and found similar problems to the earlier one: the lack of an adequate legal framework, completely separate regimes, and so on. It also found that, on a symbolic hill overlooking Ohrid, a 9th century monastic church had been reconstructed and development started on large buildings for a new Saint Kliment’s University. It found two uncontrolled developments in some parts of the city and even more along the lakeshore. And, as earlier, the coordination between culture and nature was still not in place, nor adequate management and protection.

That mission in 2013 concluded that all of this had eroded authenticity and integrity. It recommended that, given the sensitivity of the built remains of the property and the need to maintain its important visual qualities, management arrangements needed to become fully operational as soon as possible and conservation policies enforced to control Outstanding Universal Value.

The last mission to the property in 2017 found more major development and infrastructure projects being considered and urged the State Party to undertake a Strategic Impact Assessment on the cumulative impacts of all these major projects on the property’s OUV. And, overall, they also found there was still a lack of adequate management and protection arrangement with no management plan yet being in place.

The Committee, in considering this mission report, concluded that the overall State of Conservation of the property was increasingly vulnerable and, if the priority recommendations suggested by the mission were not implemented within the two-year timeframe, the property may face danger in line with the Operational Guidelines.

The current State of Conservation [Report] has addressed these priority recommendations and whether they have been undertaken, and the conclusion is that the majority remain unfulfilled as do the majority of Committee requests.

The statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the property highlights the concentration of the archaeological remains and urban structures not just within the old centre of Ohrid but also along the coast of the lake as well as in the surrounding area, all of which together create an exceptionally harmonious ensemble and one that has coherence arising from this relationship between the buildings and the surrounding landscape.

We still do not have in place the necessary underpinnings of a management system that could control the gradual erosion of these attributes, and these threats are facing the property and have been since its first mission 31 years ago. And added to these threats are further adverse impacts of large-scale infrastructure and development.

ICOMOS considers that both individually and collectively, this represents a potential danger to Outstanding Universal Value; that urgent measures are needed to address these threats; and that these measures need to be implemented in as short a time scale as possible in order to stop the continuing erosion of attributes to Outstanding Universal Value. To this end, we consider that the Danger Listing process should be used as a supportive tool.  

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