Background: By the above-mentioned Resolution, the General Conference invited the Director-General to present to it, at its 39th session, a progress report on the implementation of the Action Plan for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem and to include this item in the agenda of its 39th session. By 201 EX/Decision 30, the Executive Board invited the Director-General to submit a progress report on this matter at its 202nd session.
Purpose: The Director-General informs the General Conference about the current situation and the steps taken to safeguard the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem since its 38th session.
Decision required: No draft resolution is proposed in the present document. After examination of this item by the Executive Board at its 202nd session, the Director-General is prepared to submit an addendum to the present document.
1. At its 38th session, the General Conference examined document 38 C/16, which presented a report by the Director-General concerning the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem, and adopted 38 C/Resolution 52 in which it decided, inter alia, to include this item on the agenda of its 39th session. Since the 38th session of the General Conference, the matter has been discussed on several occasions (documents and decisions 197 EX/32, 199 EX/19, 200 EX/25, 201 EX/30, WHC/16/40.COM/7Aadd.2, WHC/17/41.COM/7Aadd.2, and 40 COM 7A 13 and 41 COM 7A.36).
The Action Plan for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem
2. By 32 C/Resolution 39, the General Conference requested the Director-General to set up a committee of experts to propose guidelines for the establishment of an Action Plan for the safeguarding of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem. The World Heritage Centre fielded several technical missions to Jerusalem to elaborate this Action Plan, thanks to the generous financial contribution from the Government of Italy, as well as assistance provided by the Government of Spain. With the agreement of the parties concerned, the Action Plan was elaborated and welcomed in 2007 by the 176th session of the Executive Board and the 34th session of the General Conference, as well as by the World Heritage Committee.
3. The Action Plan comprised 18 projects of which only one has received funding, namely the project for the conservation of the Saint John Prodromos Church funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation of Cyprus in 2009. Based on UNESCO's study and project design for the restoration of the Church, the A.G. Leventis Foundation and the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate cooperated in the implementation of the restoration works. A mission by the World Heritage Centre to Jerusalem was carried out from 27 November to 1 December 2013 in order to proceed with the closure of the project. The project has now been terminated and the remaining funds were returned to the donor in December 2014.
Establishment of a centre for the restoration of Islamic manuscripts
4. The Norwegian Government and UNESCO signed in December 2011 an agreement for the project "Ensuring the sustainability of the Centre for the Restoration of Islamic Manuscripts of the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem". The project's main objective is to build capacities of the staff of the Centre in a variety of fields of the preservation of Islamic manuscripts. The project activity started in September 2012 and its latest phase was completed in July 2017. The project has achieved its expected results through the recruitment of ten staff members of the Centre as permanent staff and implementation of 14 learning modules, with over 1,538 hours of training on conservation and restoration techniques, in addition to study tours to restoration centres in Paris and Florence in 2013. The project also provided the Centre with conservation equipment and materials. UNESCO conducted seven monitoring and consultation missions during the project implementation period. The stakeholders are currently discussing a possible new phase of the project to be implemented after the latest phase's completion.
Project for the safeguarding, refurbishment and revitalization of the Islamic Museum
5. The project "Safeguarding, Refurbishment and Revitalization of the Islamic Museum of the Haram al-Sharif and its Collection" started in 2008 with funding from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The premises of the Islamic Museum have been repaired and the necessary equipment has been purchased in order to help with the inventory process and the digitization of the collections. From 2011 to present, nine training sessions have been held and permanent staff members have been trained in conservation and museum management, English language and computer programmes. In addition, a storage room was set up and the archives were digitized. The electronic and photographic inventory was completed.
The museological phase started in September 2012 with the consultant team selected by UNESCO. However, the project requires additional funding to complete the proposed museographical and scenographical planning, which was approved in March 2015 by the Awqaf authorities. A follow-up mission took place in June 2015. The re-opening of the Museum depends on the availability of funds and the security situation in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Mughrabi Ascent
6. The Executive Board at its 176 EX/Special Plenary Meeting (2007) requested consideration of a separate item concerning the Mughrabi Ascent within the overall context of the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Executive Board and the World Heritage Committee requested that the Director-General and the World Heritage Centre facilitate the dialogue between Israeli, Jordanian and Waqf experts regarding the proposed design of the Mughrabi Ascent and that no measures, unilateral or otherwise, should be taken that would affect the authenticity and integrity of the site.
7. In January and February 2008, two technical meetings took place in Jerusalem, between Israeli, Jordanian and Waqf experts, in the presence of representatives from the World Heritage Centre, ICCROM and ICOMOS. Despite further decisions from the Executive Board at its 189th, 190th and 191st sessions and by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session, it has not been possible to organize a follow-up meeting on the subject since 2008. The Israeli and the Jordanian authorities prepared distinctive plans for the reconstruction of the Mughrabi Ascent, which were transmitted to the World Heritage Centre in May 2011. With a view to facilitating dialogue among the parties concerned, as requested by the World Heritage Committee and the Executive Board, UNESCO convened a technical meeting at its Headquarters in April 2012, with representatives of the World Heritage Centre, ICCROM and ICOMOS. The proposal from the Jordanian experts was presented and discussed during the meeting. Israel informed the World Heritage Centre that it would not participate in the meeting. Due to the absence of the Israeli experts, neither examination nor discussion of the Israeli proposal took place. Therefore, the situation remained unchanged.
8. Information received by the Secretariat from the Permanent Delegations of Jordan and Palestine to UNESCO indicated that the Israeli authorities had resumed work at the Ascent since May 2012. Following 191 EX/Decision 5 (I) of the Executive Board, a meeting between Israeli and Jordanian authorities was to take place at UNESCO Headquarters on 27 May 2013. However, with no agreement on the terms of reference for the reactive monitoring mission, the meeting could not take place.
9. At its 194th session, following a roll call vote, the Executive Board invited all parties concerned to participate in the experts meeting on the Mughrabi Ascent, to be held at UNESCO upon an agreed date prior to the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee (Doha, 2014). It has been brought to the attention of the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee that not all the parties concerned were in a position to attend this experts meeting prior to its opening on 15 June 2014.
10. From 2014 to 2016, all Decisions adopted by the Executive Board and by the World Heritage Committee concerning the Old City of Jerusalem were taken either by secret ballot or roll call vote and requested a UNESCO experts meeting on the Mughrabi Ascent. The relevant Decisions also invited all concerned parties to facilitate the implementation of the experts meeting and requested that the report of this meeting be presented to the concerned parties.
11. At the time of preparation of the present document, the meeting recommended by the World Heritage Committee and the Executive Board has not taken place.
Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Old City of Jerusalem
12. From 2010 onwards, the World Heritage Committee requested "a joint World Heritage Centre-ICCROM-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property as referred to in the Operational Guidelines to assess and advise on progress made in the implementation of the Action Plan and, in cooperation and consultation with the concerned parties, to identify appropriate operational and financial mechanisms and modalities to strengthen technical cooperation with all concerned parties in the framework of the Action Plan".
13. During the 190th session of the Executive Board (October 2012), Member States expressed their concern about the lack of progress in the implementation of the Executive Board's decisions concerning the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem. At the 191st session, a consensus was reached among the parties concerned for a mission to the Old City of Jerusalem to take place in May 2013. The mission was scheduled to be carried out from 20 to 25 May 2013. However, no agreement could be reached on the terms of reference of the mission by the parties concerned, which was regretted by the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee (Phnom Penh, 2013).
14. At its 194th session (April 2014), the Executive Board requested the dispatch, on an agreed date prior to the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee (Doha, 2014), of the joint World Heritage Centre-ICCROM-ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls. However, it was brought to the attention of the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee that this joint reactive monitoring mission could not be undertaken before the session of the Committee as requested by the Executive Board.
15. Since then, both the World Heritage Committee and the Executive Board requested — either by secret ballot or roll call vote —the dispatch of the reactive monitoring mission to the Old City of Jerusalem and stressed the need for the urgent implementation of this mission. Relevant decisions also request that the report and recommendations of the reactive monitoring mission be presented to the concerned parties.
16. At the time of the preparation of this document it has not been possible to schedule the mission as requested by the Executive Board and the World Heritage Committee.