ICOMOS Analysis of 2013 nominations

(this text is the introduction to the printed volume of 2013 ICOMOS Evaluations of nominations of mixted and cultural properties  to the World Heritage List, presented to the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee, Phnom Penh, June 2013)

In 2013, ICOMOS was called on to evaluate 41 nominations.

They consisted of:
21 new nominations
4 referred back nominations
2 deferred nominations
2 extensions
12 minor modifications/creations of buffer zone

The geographical spread is as follows:

Europe and North America
Total: 22 nominations, 13 countries

11 new nominations
2 referred back
1 deferred
7 minor modifications/creations of buffer zone
 (19 cultural properties, 3 mixed properties)

Latin America and the Caribbean
Total: 0

Arab States
Total: 2 nominations, 2 countries

1 referred back
1 minor modification/creation of buffer zone
(2 cultural properties)

Total: 4 nominations, 4 countries

3 new nominations
1 extension
(2 cultural properties, 2 mixed properties)

Total: 13 nominations, 10 countries

7 new nominations
1 referred back
1 deferred
4 minor modifications/creations of buffer zone
 (13 cultural properties)

1 Quality and complexity of nomination dossiers

Generally speaking, ICOMOS notes that nominations are increasingly complex, sometimes to the detriment of the dossiers’ clarity and coherence.

Certain nominations would benefit if more time were taken in preparing the nomination, for example to complete the legal protection process, finalise a management plan or undertake additional research.

ICOMOS hopes that the publication of the Resource Manual for the Preparation of Nominations, of which an electronic version is now available on its website, and on the World Heritage Centre website, will help the State Parties to improve the quality of nomination dossiers.

In most cases, the weakest parts of the nomination dossiers are the comparative analysis, integrity and/or monitoring.

When evaluating the comparative analysis included in nomination dossiers, ICOMOS examines the methodology used by the State Party and the relevance of the examples given by using the following parameters. Comparisons should be drawn with properties expressing the same values as the nominated property and within a defined geo-cultural area. Therefore the values need to be clearly defined and the geo-cultural framework should be determined according to these values. Comparisons should be drawn with similar properties already inscribed on the World Heritage List and with other examples at national and international level within the defined geo-cultural area.

On the basis of the above, ICOMOS indicates whether or not the comparative analysis is complete and whether or not the analysis justifies consideration of the property for the World Heritage List.

If the nomination is considered incomplete or insufficient according to the parameters indicated above, ICOMOS requests additional information from the State Party, checks relevant ICOMOS thematic studies, and the wealth of information available about properties already evaluated and/or inscribed on the World Heritage List, and on the Tentative Lists, and consults the ICOMOS network of experts to improve its understanding of the nomination.

ICOMOS wishes to point out that its role is to evaluate the properties on the basis of the information provided in the nominations (i.e. the dossiers), and on the basis of on-the-spot assessment and additional studies. Similarly, it evaluates the protection, conservation and management of the property at the time of the nomination and not at some unspecified time in the future after the adoption of the laws and management plans. It is the duty of ICOMOS to indicate to the Committee whether or not adequate protection and management are in place prior to inscription.


2 ICOMOS evaluations

The objective of ICOMOS is the conservation and long-term protection and presentation of the cultural heritage, whether or not it is of outstanding universal value. In formulating its recommendations, ICOMOS therefore aims to be as helpful as possible to State Parties, whatever the final recommendation proposed.

ICOMOS is well aware that it cannot please everyone. Despite being under considerable pressure, not only from State Parties, it must remain objective, rigorous and scientific, and its first duty remains the conservation of properties.

3 Strengthening of dialogue with State Parties

The requests for additional information were sent out prior to the carrying out of the evaluation process.

The ICOMOS World Heritage Panel meeting was held at the beginning of December 2012, so that the letters requesting additional information could be sent out in December, leaving the State Parties time to reply.

The replies provided by the State Parties have in many cases confirmed or assisted the adoption of the final recommendations made by ICOMOS.


4 “Referred back” nominations – “Deferred” nominations

At the request of the World Heritage Committee, ICOMOS and IUCN presented at the 34th session in Brasilia an information document concerning the processes, points of reference and time constraints arising from decisions to refer back or defer the examination of a nomination.

ICOMOS wishes to once again express its concerns about the difficulties raised when a “deferred” recommendation is changed into a “referred back” recommendation, which does not allow the advisory bodies to carry out an appropriate evaluation of nominations which are in many cases entirely new.

ICOMOS has moreover carried out two advisory missions for “referred back” properties, at the request of the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session. This process is not covered by the Operational Guidelines and its implementation may prove to be complex.

In its recommendations, ICOMOS clearly distinguishes between nominations which are recommended to be referred back and those which are deferred. For referred back nominations, Outstanding Universal Value has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of ICOMOS; supplementary information must be supplied to satisfy other requirements of Operational Guidelines, but no further technical evaluation mission will be required. For deferred nominations, the very nature of the information requested (a more thorough study, major reconsideration of boundaries, a request for a substantial revision, or serious gaps as regards management and conservation issues) means that a new mission and consideration by the full ICOMOS World Heritage Panel are necessary to evaluate the nomination again, and to ensure that it has the consideration needed to advance the nomination further.


5 "Minor" modifications to boundaries

The number of such requests has greatly increased. They originate either from monitoring, the retrospective inventory or periodic reporting.

The examination of these requests involves a considerable workload for ICOMOS in terms of examining the initial nomination, progress reports on conservation and earlier decisions of the World Heritage Committee, research, consultations and analysis. This year several requests for minor modifications were made by State Parties in respect of a report on the state of conservation or a retrospective inventory. To ensure that they are examined in the most favourable conditions, ICOMOS encourages State Parties to submit a separate request complying with the procedures set out in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention (annexe 11) and within the prescribed deadlines, i.e. 1st February at the latest.

ICOMOS also notes that all modifications to the boundaries of a property and its buffer zone are proposed as "minor" modifications, even when they constitute in fact substantial modifications to the property, or even in some cases an extension of the property. According to the Operational Guidelines, proposals for major modifications, whether extensions or reductions, constitute a new nomination (paragraph 165). ICOMOS recommends to the Committee that this provision should be consistently and rigorously applied.

ICOMOS suggests moreover that an extension of the calendar for the evaluation of such requests should be considered, to bring it into line with the calendar in force for new nominations, which would open up the possibility of dialogue and exchange of information with the States Parties.


6 Serial nominations and extensions

ICOMOS wishes to point out that the Operational Guidelines of November 2011 (paragraph 137) validated a change in the approach to serial properties. Serial nominations should not consist merely of a catalogue of sites, but should instead concern a collection or ensemble of sites with specific cultural, social or functional links over time, in which each site contributes substantially to the Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property as a whole.

ICOMOS wishes to encourage States Parties to give consideration to the implications of this change when preparing serial nominations.

This year, ICOMOS has examined 9 serial nominations, including 93 monuments, ensembles and sites. These nominations require a more substantial investment in terms of human and financial resources at all levels of evaluation of the properties. Because the number of serial nominations is growing, this needs to be taken into account in the budgets and contracts. Furthermore, ICOMOS notes that there are also calendar pressures arising from the task of evaluating these large and complex serial nominations and repeats its suggestion, supported by the Jade Tabet[1] review, that the World Heritage Committee give consideration to an extended timeframe for these kinds of nominations.

A specific evaluation format was set up in 2009 for the serial nominations and extensions. ICOMOS explicitly informs the Committee of the questions it asks in relation to the nature of serial nominations:

a) What is the justification for the serial approach?

b) How were the chosen sites selected? How do they each relate to the overall Outstanding Universal Value of the property?

c) Does the comparative analysis justify the selection of properties?

d) Are the separate components of the property functionally linked?

e) Is there an overall management framework for all components?

The answers to these questions have been integrated in the evaluation format under relevant sections.

7 Development projects

To address the growing need to identify development projects within World Heritage properties during the evaluation cycle, ICOMOS has included in its letters to the State Parties a specific question intended to bring to ICOMOS’ attention any development projects that are planned within the nominated property or in its vicinity, to ensure that comprehensive information is received concerning these potential projects. This has been introduced to respond to growing concern felt by the World Heritage Committee about such development plans and projects. ICOMOS has once again suggested that during the nomination evaluation procedure the Committee should apply provisions similar to those stipulated in paragraph 172, inviting the States Parties to inform the Committee of “their intention to undertake or to authorize in an area protected under the Convention major restorations or new constructions which may affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property […].

ICOMOS points out that it has drawn up a document entitled “Guidance on impact assessments for cultural World Heritage sites”, which was made available to the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session, and can be consulted on its website. This guidance has been translated into several languages.

8 Issue of calendar and timing

ICOMOS is working under increasing time pressure due to the growing number of complex nominations (serial properties and cultural landscapes). Furthermore, in the past, supplementary information received from States Parties was examined after the meeting of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee, which was held in June/July, following the initial assessment process for nominations. Today this examination is carried out during the evaluation period itself, well ahead of the World Heritage Committee meeting.

9 Upstream process

ICOMOS, at the request of the World Heritage Committee, has participated in the drawing up of feasibility studies for 10 pilot projects selected in conjunction with the World Heritage Centre, and has contributed to the advancement of the projects’ implementation. Unfortunately, because of a lack of resources, ICOMOS has been unable to review and provide advices concerning certain draft nomination dossiers received by the Centre on 30 September 2012.

As was stressed during the meeting entitled “The World Heritage Convention: Thinking Ahead”, held on 2 and 3 October 2012, ICOMOS is prepared to make its expertise available for the development of the upstream process in preparing and following up nomination dossiers, as far as this is possible with the resources available.

The activities in which ICOMOS has been involved in this respect (advisory missions, meetings, consultations), organised sufficiently in advance, have already had positive outcomes for some nominations.

10 Integrated management in natural reserves

ICOMOS has noted, in its evaluations of properties located in natural reserves (mixed properties or cultural landscapes), that there is frequently an imbalance, compared with natural elements, in the attention paid to cultural values and elements in the reserves’ conservation and management tools. It would therefore be advisable to reinforce the integrated management of natural and cultural elements and values.

[1]Tabet J., Review of ICOMOS’ working methods and procedures for the evaluation of cultural and mixed properties nominated for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Paris, ICOMOS, 2010.

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