United nations educational, scientific and cultural organization convention concerning the protection of the world

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General comments 4

1. At the conclusion of the discussion on the state of conservation, the Delegate of Belgium made some general remarks. He commented that there had been an impressive number of state of conservation reports presented to the Committee. He stated that the large number of reports was extremely worrying in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Some properties come and go from the agenda item and others appear to be permanently on the agenda. He said that the Committee needs to have an overview of the situation and therefore asked for a report and statistics presenting such an overview.

2. The Chairperson noted the Committee agreement with this suggestion and declared it adopted (decision 26 COM 21.3).


Document: WHC-02/CONF.202/19
1. The Assistant Director-General for Culture and the Director of the World Heritage Centre presented document WHC-02/CONF.202/19 and additional information on the state of conservation of heritage properties in Afghanistan. The Director of the Centre added that the Committee would be invited to discuss and adopt an action plan under agenda item 24 – Adjustments to the World Heritage Fund budget for 2002 – 2003.
2. The Observer of Afghanistan, the Minister of Information and Culture of the Government of Afghanistan, His Excellency Mr Sayed Makdoom Raheen, expressed the gratitude of his Government to the Committee for assisting his country in implementing the World Heritage Convention. He informed the Committee that the Loya Jirga (General Assembly) had just established a new Government of Afghanistan, and his country was now on its path to reconstruction. Recalling the looting of Kabul Museum and the wilful destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the Observer drew the attention of the Committee to the 23 years lost in the conservation and recognition of Afghanistan's rich cultural and natural heritage. To recover the lost opportunity in implementing the World Heritage Convention, to which Afghanistan has been State Party since 1979, the Observer appealed to the Committee to support his country both financially and technically. The Observer underscored the necessity to maintain the momentum for national and international efforts to conserve and rehabilitate Afghanistan's rich heritage. To this end, he asked the Committee to publicize the overwhelming challenges facing Afghan heritage and to define ways and means to support the national efforts to enhance the protection and revitalization of this heritage.
3. The former Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Mr Henrik Lilius, informed the Committee of the optimism and hope of the Afghan citizens which he noted during his participation at the "International Seminar for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage" (27-29 May 2002, Kabul). Underscoring that vernacular architecture is as important as monumental heritage, he informed the Committee that conservation and rehabilitation of traditional habitat was essential in the reconstruction process of Afghanistan.
4. The President of ICOMOS, Mr Michael Petzet, who also participated at this Seminar, drew the attention of the Committee to its conclusions and recommendations and referred to the contribution from the Government of Germany to ICOMOS for the rehabilitation of Babur Gardens (Kabul) and other properties in partnership with Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
5. The Observer of Iran, expressing his Government's appreciation for the report presented in document WHC-02/CONF.202/19 and the additional information presented by the Secretariat, supported the recommendations proposed in the document. Drawing the attention of the Committee to the shared heritage and conservation challenges in both Afghanistan and Iran, the Observer informed the Committee that his Government had already organized the training of 15 young conservation experts to commence capacity building for Afghanistan's heritage authorities. He informed the Committee of the willingness of his Government to expand co-operation with the Centre to assist the Afghan authorities in addressing priority issues for the protection of Afghan heritage.
6. Recalling that the Committee had requested IUCN to assist the Afghan authorities in re-establishing national inventories of natural heritage in Afghanistan, the Representative of IUCN informed the Committee that a detailed two-volume report had been compiled and transmitted to the Government of Afghanistan through the Centre. He expressed IUCN's disappointment in not having been able to participate in the UNESCO WHC - ICOMOS Joint Mission to Afghanistan (28 April - 11 May 2002), due to the security and logistical reasons. Consequently, document WHC-02/CONF.202/19 has limited emphasis on the natural aspects of the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Afghanistan. The Representative of IUCN emphasized the importance of natural heritage conservation in Afghanistan in the future, in addition to addressing the conservation needs of the cultural heritage of this country. He expressed IUCN's readiness to assist Afghanistan and specifically the Ministry of Agriculture, in the elaboration of a preliminary action plan for natural heritage, and to assess the state of conservation of the State Party's potential natural World Heritage properties.
7. The Delegate of India expressed her Government's appreciation for the excellent work achieved to assist the Afghan authorities, notably by the Assistant Director-General for Culture and the Centre since the 25th session of the Committee. Noting that difficult tasks have been achieved leading to concrete actions, she recommended that the draft recommendations presented in document WHC-02/CONF.202/19 be adopted by the Committee with additional emphasis on the mobilization of regional expertise. She also drew the attention of the Committee to the need to emphasize natural heritage aspects.
8. The Delegate of China welcomed the positive actions undertaken by UNESCO and expressed deep appreciation to the Government of Afghanistan for the importance it places on the Afghan cultural and natural heritage. He expressed his Government's support for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan's heritage and his hope that part of the funds carried over to 2002 by the UNESCO Executive Board at its 165th session be utilized to this end. Finally, the Delegate of China recommended that the draft recommendations presented in document WHC-02/CONF.202/19 be adopted by the Committee.
9. The Delegate of Zimbabwe underlined the importance of assisting the Afghan authorities in elaborating a comprehensive medium- and long-term action plan, otherwise any action would be "ad hoc", without sustainable results.
10. The Delegate of Oman, reiterating appreciation to the Assistant Director-General for Culture and the Director of the Centre for their reports and effective actions, expressed his Government's support for the recommendations proposed in document WHC-02/CONF.202/19.
11. The Delegate of Thailand joined previous speakers in expressing his Government's appreciation to UNESCO and other States Parties to the Convention for their actions and offered his Government's assistance to the newly established Government of Afghanistan. He stressed the need to demonstrate with actions, the common wish by all States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to support the authorities in their process of rehabilitating the rich heritage of Afghanistan.
12. The Delegate of Greece congratulated the Government of Afghanistan for its efforts to reactivate the World Heritage Convention and expressed appreciation for their commitment to safeguard Afghan heritage. Whilst thanking UNESCO for the report on the actions taken since the 25th session of the Committee, she nevertheless recalled the discussions which took place during that session regarding the possible inscription of the Monuments and Sites of Bamiyan Valley on the World Heritage List under cultural criterion (vi), as a testimony to the tragic and wilful destruction of the heritage of humankind.
13. The Observer of Chile, expressing appreciation for the remarkable work undertaken by the Government and UNESCO in reactivating the World Heritage Convention in Afghanistan, underscored the importance for the Committee to transmit a strong message demonstrating the solidarity of the international community in supporting the reconstruction of Afghanistan, supported by concrete actions.
14. The Chairperson noted that there was consensus in the room and thanked the Secretariat and the Advisory Bodies. He asked the Committee how to proceed with the recommendations contained in document WHC-02/CONF.202/19.
15. The Delegate of the United Kingdom proposed to limit the decisions to operational issues, with a general and a financial section.
16. The Delegate of Saint Lucia, noting that the Committee had to take a decision rather than recommendations supported this proposal. She further observed that the decision needed to be more specific and shorter.
17. The Chairman confirmed first that the Committee was supposed to adopt decisions and not recommendations, second that the financial implications would be considered under item 24.
18. Given the work that the draft recommendations represented, the Delegate of India proposed to adopt a shorter decision and to annex the recommendations to the report.
19. The Delegate of Greece noted that parts of the recommendations – notably section III – paraphrased conclusions of the 25th session of the Committee and requested that in the future decisions be drafted in an unambiguous way.
20. The Chairman summarized the debate and proposed the Committee to adopt a shorter decision and to annex the recommendations to the Report. He thanked the Minister of Information and Culture of Afghanistan for attending the Committee’s session.
21. A draft decision was circulated on Saturday morning. The Rapporteur informed the Committee that the draft included not only operational items but also general remarks to bring this draft decision in line with the decisions on the conservation reports (item 21).
22. The Delegate of India reiterated her suggestion to annex the initial recommendations to the Report.
23. The Delegate of Saint Lucia asked to address the decision to the Director-General.
24. The Delegate of Thailand asked to refer to experts from countries in the region (rather than ‘regional experts’).
25. The Delegate of Greece requested a specific reference to prevention of illicit excavations.
26. The Delegate of Saint Lucia suggested to refer to the recommendations included in document WHC-02/CONF.202/19 (instead of the ‘resolution’).
27. The representative of ICOMOS noted that the part on the financing needed to be included in the decision concerning the budget (item 24).
28. Following these suggestions, the Chairperson declared the decision adopted as amended (decision 26 COM 22).

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