Protection of World Heritage Settlements and their surroundings : factors affecting management policy and practice
Leitao, Leticia M. Pereira
In an increasingly urbanised world, historic settlements have been facing tremendous urbanisation and development pressures. In this context, historic settlements included on the World Heritage List ought to be flagships for urban conservation. This dissertation investigates how effectively the existing protection and management policies under the World Heritage Convention contribute to the protection of historic urban settlements and especially their surroundings. The factors affecting urban settlements, and the responses adopted by the international community for the protection of urban heritage, are investigated – first in relation to urban settlements in general, and then in relation to historic settlements included on the World Heritage List. To get a holistic view of how historic settlements have been protected under the World Heritage Convention, the monitoring mechanisms established under the Convention are examined. The analysis of the results of the first cycle of the Periodic Reporting exercise and of the state of conservation reports resulting from the Reactive Monitoring process provide an overall view of the main issues influencing the protection of World Heritage settlements. To get an overview of the factors affecting the surroundings of World Heritage settlements in particular, the concept of buffer zone – adopted under the World Heritage Convention as the main mechanism for the protection of the surroundings of World Heritage properties – is investigated not only in relation to its use in other disciplines and to the protection of natural protected areas, but also in the nomination files over time. To investigate how historic settlements and their surroundings in particular have been affected by urbanisation and development pressures, and how they have been protected under the World Heritage Convention, four case studies are studied, namely Angra do Heroísmo in Portugal, Olinda in Brazil, Marrakesh in Morocco and the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. In all four cases I examine how their inscription on the World Heritage List has influenced their protection and that of their surroundings in particular, how the existing managements systems established for their protection have responded to urbanisation and development pressures, and what are the main factors affecting their state of conservation. In addition, as the Kathmandu Valley has received enormous attention under the World Heritage system, this case study is also analysed to obtain an in-depth understanding of how the system has been implemented for the protection of World Heritage settlements. The case studies shed light on five inter-related aspects. First, that the legal and management arrangements adopted for the protection of the World Heritage settlements are not built upon what is considered to be their outstanding universal value, and are insufficient to effectively address existing urbanisation and development pressures. Second, that the factors affecting the state of conservation of World Heritage properties increasingly originate from beyond the properties‘ boundaries, but there is nevertheless no integration of the planning and management arrangements for the World Heritage settlements within their wider urban context. Third, that the surroundings of the World Heritage settlements investigated have continued to undergo considerable change since the time of inscription and are now much more urbanized areas, despite existing legal mechanisms for their protection. Fourth, that although Angra do Heroísmo, Olinda and Marrakesh present similar factors affecting their state of conservation to those identified for the Kathmandu Valley, they have not received the same attention from the World Heritage Committee, pointing to a lack of clarity on the selection process for the follow-up of the state of conservation of a property through Reactive Monitoring. Fifth, in relation to the Kathmandu Valley only, that the involvement of the international community has considerable limitations and needs to be improved. These aspects show that the protection and management policies under the World Heritage Convention are limited, not effectively implemented or enforced, and only address a limited number of the existing needs. The dissertation concludes by articulating how existing trends influencing urban settlements can be more effectively addressed by existing mechanisms under the World Heritage Convention. Finally I bring forward the policy implications deriving from the research findings and suggest broad strategies for improving some of the processes and practices for the protection of World Heritage settlements and their surroundings in particular.