UNESCO Produces Urban Rehabilitation Guidelines for Yemeni World Heritage Sites

As part of its EU-funded project “Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihoods Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen”, UNESCO produced urban rehabilitation guidelines for local architects, master builders and cultural heritage local stakeholders. The guidelines are fully contextualized for each city covered by the Project including the World Heritage Sites of Sana’a, Shibam and Zabid, as well as the historic city of Aden. They aim at helping local stakeholders conducting necessary planning, surveying, maintenance, rehabilitation and monitoring, in compliance with recognized conservation standards and principles. The overall aim is to ensure the preservation of historic structures and their use as a living environment with the highest possible level of authenticity and safeguarding. The guidelines also acknowledge that modernization demands, and technical and social developments lead transformations necessary for the historic cities to stay alive. These guidelines help to identify appropriate ways to integrate and balance modernization and preservation. The guidelines were developed in consideration of recent guidelines developed by UNESCO, namely of Pingyao (China) and Timbuktu (Mali) and included contribution from Yemeni experts and counterparts such as the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY).

The guidelines are part of a comprehensive Preservation Strategy that allowed so far for the stabilization or rehabilitation of 78 historic buildings involving 848 young wokers (including 67 females) over 17,865 cash working days. The Conservation Plans for the World Heritage Sites of Sana’a, Shibam and Zabid are under preparation as a next step, including Management Plans that define implementation measures.

 

The guidelines take into consideration the local context that is extremely challenging for the preservation of the historic cities: armed conflict, pandemic, economic decline, humanitarian crisis, and fragmentation in local governance. On the other hand, the guidelines encourage the traditional building industry that is still well operating and able to satisfy most technical demands, and bringing this potential in line with modernization demands and preservation requirements. In terms of methodology, there is common agreement by conservation experts that guidelines should rather outline principles and methods of implementation instead of the older concept of guidelines listing explicit actions to do or to avoid. Decisions in concrete implementation always depend on individual preferences, economical resources, technical needs and much more criteria that guidelines can hardly predict or assume. Recommendations rather apply a spectrum of possibilities, while recognizing that it is essential to follow defined strategies and principles of preservation acceptance. The Urban Rehabilitation Guidelines are being translated from English to Arabic and will be made available online in December 2020. Stay tuned through the Cash for work project page.

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