On Wednesday January 25th, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe the Historic Centre of Odesa, Ukraine, on the World Heritage List. This decision recognizes the outstanding universal value of the site and the duty of all humanity to protect it.
The Historic Centre of Odesa has also been inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which gives it access to reinforced technical and financial international assistance, which Ukraine may request so as to ensure the protection of the property and, if necessary, assist in its rehabilitation.
According to CNN, the inscription was made during an extraordinary session of the World Heritage Committee in Paris. The meeting addressed three threatened sites:
- Historic Center of Odesa (Ukraine)
- Rachid Karami International Fair-Tripoli (Lebanon)
- Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba in Marib Governorate (Yemen)
1. Urgency of procedure due to the war
In view of the threats to the city since the beginning of the war, the World Heritage Committee has used an emergency procedure provided for in the Operational Guidelines of the World Heritage Convention. As early as the summer of 2022, UNESCO linked international experts with Ukrainian experts to prepare the nomination, with the support of Italy and Greece.
Odesa, a free city, a world city, is placed under the reinforced protection of the international community.Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
Ukraine’s President Zelensky made the submission official in October 2022, in an online speech to UNESCO. The evaluation bodies examined the nomination over the following weeks, allowing for a review at this week’s extraordinary World Heritage Committee in Paris.
2. UNESCO deploys emergency measures on the ground
In recent months, in parallel with the process of inscribing the Historic Centre of Odesa on the World Heritage List, UNESCO implemented emergency measures on the ground to help protect the site.
UNESCO has notably ensured the repairs to damages inflicted on the Odesa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odesa Museum of Modern Art since the beginning of the war. The Organization also provided equipment for the digitization of nearly 1,000 works of art and of the documentary collection of the Odesa State Archives. Equipment was also delivered to protect the buildings as well as the open-air works of art.
These measures are part of UNESCO’s overall action plan in Ukraine, which has already mobilized more than $18 million for education, science, culture and information.
Under the terms of the World Heritage Convention, the 194 States Parties of the Convention commit not to undertake any deliberate step that may directly or indirectly damage the World Heritage site and to assist in its protection.