The sites registered in the World Heritage List are subject to constant monitoring by the World Heritage Centre, which aims to verify the conservation over time of the outstanding universal values for which they obtained inscription.
Four methods are provided within the Guidelines for verifying the state of conservation and management of the sites:
- the Periodic Report, which must be drawn up every six years for all inscribed sites;
- Reactive Monitoring, which is carried out from time to time in the case of sites affected by particular risk situations;
- Advisory Monitoring, in the event that risk situations arise and a prior verification is requested from the Advisory Bodies, prior to the pronouncement of the World Heritage Committee.
Sites subject to serious and specific dangers that can cause their loss or serious damage are entered in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Every six years, States Parties to the Convention are requested to submit reports to the UNESCO General Conference through the World Heritage Committee, on the legislative and administrative provisions they have adopted and other actions which they have taken for the application of the Convention, including the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties located on their territories. This obligation was implemented for the first time from the late 1990s.
The Periodic Reports, in addition to providing an assessment, albeit of a subjective type (compiled by the managers of UNESCO sites), regarding the maintenance over time of the outstanding universal value of the sites inscribed in the World Heritage List and updated information on any changes that have occurred over time, constitute a tool for regional cooperation and the exchange of information and experience between States Parties.
The Reports must be drawn up by the individual States according to the format prepared by the World Heritage Centre (Guidelines, annex 7), which includes two sections:
- Section I deals with the administrative and legislative measures that the State Party has adopted and the actions undertaken for the application of the Convention, together with the details of the experience acquired in this field;
- Section II concerns the state of conservation of the individual World Heritage sites located in the territory of the State concerned.
Based on national Reports, the World Heritage Centre and the competent advisory bodies, in consultation with the States Parties concerned, develop long-term regional programmes, structured according to strategic objectives outlined by the World Heritage Committee to meet the needs of the World Heritage sites of the specific geographical areas.
Reactive and Advisory Monitoring
The Reactive Monitoring procedure is applied when exceptional circumstances occur which may affect the conservation status of sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. Reactive Monitoring is also envisaged in the case of properties inscribed or that must be inscribed in the List of
World Heritage in Danger and in the procedures for the possible removal of properties from the World Heritage List.
In these cases, States are invited to submit to the Committee, through the World Heritage Centre, analytical reports and impact studies on the specific issues that threaten the site. The Committee’s Reactive Monitoring procedure is mainly aimed at ensuring that all possible measures are taken to avoid the removal of a property from the List and to offer, with the support of the Advisory Bodies, technical cooperation in the search for adequate solutions to the problems that could endanger its conservation.
Based on the information collected, the Committee can decide that the site is not seriously damaged and that no further action should be taken, or it can decide that it be kept on the List, provided that the State Party takes the necessary measures within a reasonable period of time.
When the data indicate that the property has deteriorated to the point that the values for which it was inscribed on the List are irreparably lost, the Committee may decide to remove the site from the List by first informing the State Party concerned, which it may submit to the attention of the Committee for further information and comments.
In cases where there is only one risk report, but the Advisory Bodies assess the need to proceed quickly and carefully, Advisory Monitoring can be activated, in which the State invites the Advisory Bodies for an advisory mission. The technical report resulting from the mission may give indications on how to proceed to deal with the risk situations highlighted.
List of Heritage in Danger
Armed conflict, wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters, pollution, depredation, rapid urbanisation and the uncontrolled development of tourism can cause serious problems to World Heritage sites and even jeopardise the features that resulted in their inscription.
The danger can be “ascertained” when there is a specific situation of imminent danger, or “potential” when a site is in a situation that could have negative effects on its World Heritage value.
According to the 1972 Convention, the Committee can inscribe sites whose protection requires important actions on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The inscription of a site on this list helps to raise awareness among the international community and allows conservation specialists to effectively deal with specific problems. In fact, often even the mere prospect of being inscribed on this List is sufficient to stimulate conservation actions.
The inclusion of a site on the List of World Heritage in Danger requires that the Committee draws up and adopts, in agreement with the State Party concerned, a programme of corrective measures and that it subsequently monitors the situation of the site. The Committee may also decide to send
qualified observers belonging to the competent advisory bodies or other organisations, to visit the property, assess the nature and extent of the threats and propose the measures to be taken to restore the values of the site, in order to be able to remove it from the List as soon as possible.
If a site loses the features for which it was inscribed on the World Heritage List, the Committee may decide to remove it both from the List of World Heritage in Danger and from the World Heritage List.