UNESCO’s latest decisions on Jerusalem – November 2014 update
In, 2010, UNESCO decided to send a joint World Heritage Centre/ICCROM/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to Jerusalem, in order to report on the progress of UNESCO’s Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem. During 2013-2014, the decision was repeatedly discussed and reaffirmed at the World Heritage Centre and the Executive Board. Still, the mission hasn’t been rescheduled since it was cancelled at the last minute in May 2013. In 2014, we are under the impression that the UNESCO decisions are becoming more sharply worded against Israel’s actions in the Old City of Jerusalem, and that additional measures are being considered. In April 2014, the Executive Board called upon the Director-General to appoint a special envoy to be stationed in East Jerusalem and report on a regular basis on all UNESCO fields of competence (194 EX/11). Also, the five resolutions that were taken off the UNESCO agenda in 2013— in order to reach a compromise with Israel that would allow the monitoring mission to be carried out—were included again on the Executive Board’s meeting in October 2014 (195th session). In view of the current political tension in Jerusalem, and between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it seems very unlikely that the involved parties will reach an agreement on the subject in the near future.
In 2003, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted a Resolution calling for the preparation of an Action Plan to safeguard the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem. The two phase “Action Plan to Safeguard the Cultural Heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem” began in January 2005 with a consultation of a Committee of Experts and the compilation of a conservation database and an Old City inventory. Since 2005, UNESCO’s involvement in Jerusalem has mainly focused on the Action Plan and its mediation in the dispute surrounding the Mughrabi Gate. In 2010, the World Heritage Committee decided to send a reactive monitoring mission consisting of staff from the World Heritage Centre, ICCROM and ICOMOS to “assess and advise on progress made in the implementation of the Action Plan” (WHC decision 34 COM 7A.20, Brasilia 2010). Due to political disagreements, the mission was repeatedly postponed. Finally, in April 2013, an agreement was reached: Israel agreed to receive the mission in Jerusalem, as stated in a letter from the Israeli permanent delegate to the Director General of UNESCO; the Palestinians agreed to take five proposed items off the UNESCO agenda. The mission was scheduled for May 2013, but was cancelled at the last minute as Israel accused the Palestinians for trying to politicize the mission. UNESCO responded by requesting continuous updates on the situation. The World Heritage Committee decision from June 2013 concerning Jerusalem (WHC 37 COM 7A.26) stated that the WHC “requests the World Heritage Centre to continue applying the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism to the Old City of Jerusalem on both sides of its Walls, including the Mughrabi Ascent, and also requests it to report every four months on this matter.” Consequently, the matter has repeatedly been brought up at the UNESCO Executive Board’s meetings. The decision from October 2013 states that UNESCO “regrets the unilateral Israeli cancelation of the joint reactive monitoring mission to the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls by requiring new restrictive preconditions, as well as the absence of Israeli representatives at the UNESCO experts meeting on the Mughrabi Ascent“, and “urges Israel to respect the terms of the above-mentioned agreement by accepting and facilitating the joint reactive monitoring mission to the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls” (192 EX/11).
Jerusalem was discussed again at the Executive Board meeting in April 2014, at which the board reiterated its request to send a reactive monitoring mission at least 10 days before the 38th session of the WHC in Doha, June 2014 (194 EX/11). Another decision at the same meeting requested the Director-General to “appoint, as soon as possible, a permanent and eminent expert(s) to be stationed in East Jerusalem to report on a regular basis about all the aspects covering all UNESCO fields of competence in the City of East Jerusalem.” In June 2014, the WHC discussed the same items and again affirmed the request to send a reactive monitoring mission (WHC 38 COM 7.4A). Interestingly, the committee also decided to include the five Middle East items that were taken off the agenda in 2013 (the items were taken off in order to reach a compromise with Israel concerning the reactive monitoring mission) on the next Executive Board meeting (195 EX). Should we mention a couple of these items since this was stated before? The decision to send a reactive monitoring mission to Jerusalem was brought up for discussion and affirmed again at the Executive Board’s meeting in October 2014 (195 EX/9), although the document also stated that at the time of writing, it had not been possible to schedule the mission. In view of the current political tension in Jerusalem and between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it seems very unlikely that the involved parties will reach an agreement on the subject in the near future.
Back to top