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Thursday, June 14, 2012
Excerpts: International Council on Monuments and Sites: Church of Nativity does not require emergency listing in the World

In conclusion, ICOMOS does not consider that the property can be considered
to have been severely damaged or to be under imminent threat.

ICOMOS does not consider that there is ‘any immediate action’ that could be
taken by the Committee that ‘is necessary for the survival of the property’.

ICOMOS recommends that the Birthplace of Jesus: the Church of the Nativity
and the Pilgrimage route, Bethlehem, Palestine should not be inscribed on
the World Heritage List on an emergency basis.

Excerpts: International Council on Monuments and Sites: Church of Nativity
does not require emergency listing in the World Heritage List

The following is an excerpt from the report by the International Council on
Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) – an independent entity based in Paris that
advises the World Heritage Committee on which nominated properties to list.
http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2012/whc12-36com-inf8B1Add2-en.pdf

World Heritage List Nominations submitted for processing on an emergency
basis

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
(Palestine) No 1433
...

7 Emergency Nomination

This nomination is put forward as an Emergency Nomination under paragraph
161 and 162 of the Operational Guidelines. The justification for this is
as follows:

- The Church of the Nativity and its monastic complex have greatly
suffered from the lack of regular and restoration works because of the
political situation in the area and the region since 1967.

- Despite the efforts of the local religious authorities and the
insistence of the international Community and particularly UNESCO
which launched the
ambitious programme called ‘Bethlehem 2000’ for the rehabilitation of
the historic city and religious complex, no major restoration works
were undertaken at the Nativity Church.

- As with other properties that suffered from the result of armed
conflict, the property should be immediately inscribed on the World Heritage
List in Danger.

- The lack of free movement imposed by the Israeli security forces is
hampering the supply of appropriate materials.

- Overall the combined effects of the consequences of the Israeli
occupation and the lack of scientific and technical measures for restoring
and preserving the
property are creating an emergency situation that should be addressed by an
emergency measure.

Paragraph 161 of the Operational Guidelines states that emergency nominators
procedures apply ‘in the case of properties which, in the opinion of the
relevant Advisory Bodies, would unquestionably meet the criteria for
inscription on the World Heritage List and which have suffered damage or
face serious and specific dangers from natural events or human activities’.
The nomination needs to ‘describe the nature of the emergency, including the
nature and extent of the damage or danger and showing that immediate action
by the Committee is necessary for the survival of the property’. The
evaluation needs to assess Outstanding Universal Value, and the nature of
the emergency, damage and/or danger.

In ICOMOS’s view the Church of the Nativity and its surrounding monastic
complex do have the capacity to be considered of demonstrating Outstanding
Universal Value. However the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value
have not been assessed, nor have considerations of integrity and
authenticity, and no study has been made of the adequacies of the boundaries
or of the requirements of protection and management.

In terms of threats, in ICOMOS’s view, the Church of the Nativity has
suffered from the lack of maintenance and the lack of conservation. As it
acknowledged in the nomination dossier this has been partly to do with the
lack of collaboration between the religious communities which have not been
noted for their collaboration ‘over the past thousand years’. As the
management of the nominated buildings is shared between three religious
organisations, collaboration between them is essential of progress is to be
made with conservation and repair.

The main symptom of the lack of maintenance and conservation is the present
state of conservation of the Church of the Nativity. As the
Technical Expert confirmed, although these are grave, they are also long-
standing, and nothing that has been found during the recent extensive
surveys of the roof undertaken by an international consortium has led them
to conclude that the roof is in such danger that emergency measures such as
scaffolding or other supports are needed.

The nomination dossier also makes clear that active measures to address the
roof problems in the Church of the Nativity are about to start, based on the
extensive recent studies and other progress has been made over the past few
years. First and foremost this progress has been made possible by the
Presidential Decree which has brought together the church authorities
to such effect that a Committee has been set up to take forward repairs to
the church roof which will be funded by the Palestine authorities. The
vulnerability of the roof of the Church of the Nativity is now being
addressed in the best way possible through the concerted efforts of the main
parties.

In conclusion, ICOMOS does not consider that the property can be considered
to have been severely damaged or to be under imminent threat.

ICOMOS does not consider that there is ‘any immediate action’ that could be
taken by the Committee that ‘is necessary for the survival of the property’.

8 Conclusions

ICOMOS considers that the nomination should be re- submitted for the normal
assessment process and that this could provide the opportunity for a full
assessment of the needs of the property in terms of protection, conservation
and management.

ICOMOS further considers that although the current assessment has
highlighted the need for work to be undertaken on the roof of the Church of
the Nativity in the short term, it has also pointed up the need for this
work to be guided by a Conservation Strategy that could synthesize the
conclusions of the detailed investigative reports into a clear statement of
the significances of the various elements within a comprehensive
conservation philosophy for the proposed work.

What has also emerged is the need for better management of visitors, as the
exceptionally high number of people within the Church of the Nativity at any
one time is impacting adversely on its conservation of the fabric, and the
provision of facilities for visitors are impacting adversely on the fabric
of the surrounding town.

What further emerges from the nomination dossier is the very strong
inter-relationship between the property and the historic city, a symbiotic
relationship that has grown up since the time the first church was built in
the 4th century. This relationship is threatened by inappropriate
development and lack of control of traffic and tourism that is altogether
impacting on the context of the churches in terms of views, but perhaps more
importantly their sense of place and their spiritual associations. The
current nomination puts forward only the church and its monastic complex,
with a small part of the pilgrimage route and an open area to the east.

ICOMOS considers that a revised nomination could allow consideration of
these issues: of a Conservation Plan, wider boundaries, and visitor
management, and of how the optimum supporting structures for the property
might be put in place.

The State Party states that it is planning to nominate the Historic Town of
Bethlehem as a second phase of a serial nomination, and that further phases
would include the Historic Town of Beit Sahour, the Shepherds’ Field, Beit
Sahour, and the Mar Saba Monastery in the Desert to the east. The link
between these sites will be their association with the story of the birth
and life of Jesus.

In terms of a potential serial nomination, ICOMOS would like to draw
attention to the requirements of the Operational guidelines as set out in
paragraph 137:

Component parts should reflect cultural, social or functional links over
time that provide, where relevant, landscape, ecological, evolutionary or
habitat connectivity. Each component part should contribute to the
Outstanding Universal Value of the property as a whole in a substantial,
scientific, readily defined and discernible way, and may include, inter
alia, intangible attributes. The resulting Outstanding Universal Value
should be easily understood and communicated.

On the basis of information so far provided, ICOMOS does not consider that
the proposal as put forward by the State Party for a serial nomination of
places associated with the birth and life of Jesus would meet these
conditions. The World Heritage Committee has indicated on several occasions
that the link between component sites of a serial nomination should not be
one person. ICOMOS thus suggests that this approach should be
re-considered.

Recommendations with respect to inscription ICOMOS does not consider that
the conditions required by paragraph 161 of the Operational Guidelines are
fully met, concerning damage or serious and specific dangers to the Church
of the Nativity that make its condition an emergency that needs to be
addressed by the World Heritage Committee with immediate action necessary
for the survival of the property.

ICOMOS recommends that the Birthplace of Jesus: the Church of the Nativity
and the Pilgrimage route, Bethlehem, Palestine should not be inscribed on
the World Heritage List on an emergency basis.

ICOMOS encourages the State Party to resubmit the nomination in accordance
with normal procedures for nomination, to allow a proper assessment of
integrity,
authenticity, and conservation, and proper consideration of management
arrangements and of the appropriate boundaries for the property, in relation
to its links with the surrounding town.

ICOMOS also recommends that the international community be encouraged to
facilitate the conservation of the property.

ICOMOS further recommends, on the basis of the information so far provided,
that this nomination should not be considered as being the first
nomination of a serial property of sites that reflect the birth and life
of Jesus and encourages the State Party re-consider this approach.

ICOMOS would be ready and willing to offer such support as may be
appropriate, as part of the upstream advice processes.

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