The 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee will be held in the city of Manama, Bahrain from 24 June to 4 July 2018 at the UNESCO Village within the Ritz Carlton Hotel premises. Montenegro cannot be satisfied with the Draft Decision on its progress towards resolving various conservation issues raised by the Committee at its previous sessions, especially those given at the 40th session in Istanbul in 2016. But, it seems like we will be given some more time to try to preserve the outstanding universal value of the Kotor area to remain the part the of the the natural and cultural heritage of the world.
The World Committee based its Conclusion on Montenegrin National Progress Report, submitted in December 2017 as well as on Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM (the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property). We have strong reasons to believe concerns addressed to UNESCO and ICOMOS sent by the professional NGO „Friends of Bokelian heritage“ were also taken into account. The committee welcomes the ongoing work by Montenegro on legal, planning and management matters and acknowledges the work undertaken as part of the Kotor Heritage Impact Assessment to analyse the weakness of the current overall protection system and the proposals for the development of a Spatial Urban Plan for the Municipality of Kotor. But they have noted a lot of issues requiring further progress.
The draft Kotor HIA and the Law on Spatial Planning and Construction of Structures were the subjects of an ICOMOS technical review, which was transmitted to Montenegro in May 2018. The completed Kotor HIA was requested by the Committee to evaluate the current set of "planning instruments" adopted for the property and its buffer zone, to understand which might have a potential adverse effect on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) regarding development that could be allowed. This detailed report realistically notes that if all legitimate land-use planning and urban development plans were to be realized, the OUV of the property would be jeopardized. It analyses and assesses the weaknesses of the system, such as insufficient links between protection requirements and approved land-use and town plans. It sets out some proposals but does not provide clear and detailed guidance for resolving the problem through strengthening or harmonising planning instruments following the Committee's decisions. Instead, it sets out a framework for future HIAs to be carried out by a Team of Experts authorised by the Ministry of Culture. At the same time new actors will be introduced into the planning system. This in effect suggests that unacceptable projects can still be legitimately put forward in line with planning instruments but mitigated as a result of HIAs, conclude the world heritage experts. For the World Heritage Committee, it is difficult to understand how the HIA processes can replace inadequate legal protection or lack of planning controls. What is still needed is a detailed analysis of the actual spatial and urban plans in force for the property's territory and its buffer zone, their weaknesses and what is required in order to strengthen them.
In the Draft Conclusion on the state of the Kotor Area, the Committee actively requests Montenegro to maintain the moratorium on any new construction and development until a complete suite of planning and protection measures are in force to accommodate possible sustainable developments within the sensitive landscape of the area and prevent any impact on the cultural and landscape values of the property. An HIA was carried out for the cable car project and has already been reviewed by ICOMOS. This technical review, submitted in November 2017, did not consider the proposed mitigation actions to be sufficient to avoid negative impacts on the property’s OUV, and instead, the Committee proposes that the project should be abandoned.
As many of the development pressures arising within the property are related to tourism, tourism planning that respects OUV and supports sustainable development should also be an essential component of general essential for the property. This is related not only to infrastructure but also high visitor numbers, particularly related to cruise tourism.
The recent appointment of a new management council, with improvements to the way it functions, is an important step towards effective management, appreciated by the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM. The Draft Conclusion noted that the council should ensure that the ongoing implementation of the management plan is coordinated with all other planning activities and that all relevant actors, including the buffer zone municipalities' representatives, are involved.
The World Heritage Committee also requests Montenegro to complete all relevant actions in response to the Committee’s previous decisions, in particular to carry out HIAs for all ongoing or planned development projects, including the transport connection at Verige and the tourist facility at Glavati – Prčanj, as well as to submit the results of the HIAs to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, prior to undertaking any further commitments.
In its Draft Decision, the Committee requests Montenegro invite a joint World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to Kotor to assess its state of conservation, as well as, to consider in detail the various reports and legal amendments that have been produced and how further work might be carried out to strengthen the legal and planning protection of the property and its buffer zone.
Finally, the Committee requests Montenegro submit an updated detailed report to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2019, on the state of conservation of all components of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.