Venice escapes (again) the list of “in danger” sites

Last July, the status of Venice was put in the spotlight by UNESCO, which recommended the inclusion of the city on the list of world heritage in danger. But the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on September 14, rejected this recommendation.

In 2021 Venice had already been threatened with inclusion on the list of endangered heritage, but Italy had managed to narrowly avoid this by banning the access of large cruise ships in the Giudecca canal and in the Saint Basin -Mark.

However, UNESCO experts estimated in a report published on July 31 that the measures taken so far are not sufficient and that significant progress is needed to protect Venice. At the heart of the problem, the management of mass tourism, urban development without impact studies, motorboats and the fragility of the lagoon.

The World Heritage Committee, made up of 21 member states, has therefore (temporarily) spared Venice from this dishonorable label. Japan thus highlighted Italy’s efforts by recalling the law aimed at blocking the entry of large ships into the city. The access fee, which has just been voted on by the Municipal Council and which will be tested from spring 2024, was perceived by the members of the Committee as an effort to try to save the city and limit the flow of tourists to the day.

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, present in Riyadh, welcomed the Republic of this decision, which he described as “recognition of the efforts we are making to save Venice”. He also denounced the request for registration of UNESCO experts, which he considers “very political and not very technical “. The Italian Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, agreed, saying that this request was “an undue maneuver, purely political and without anchoring on objective data » and that in recent months, “the municipality has taken courageous steps to manage tourism and ensure the protection of the city’s extraordinary cultural heritage”.

But this symbolic victory is not unanimous. Several associations and municipal councilors criticized the vote of the World Heritage Committee, fearing that it was only based on the establishment of the entrance fee. Marco Gasparinetti, city councilor and lawyer, said that “on the contrary, the city is in complete disarray” and “the measure on the access contribution is a fig leaf to try to show that we are doing something”.

The lagoon city is not out of the woods, however. Unesco has announced its intention to send a delegation and present a new report on the city’s problems by February 2024. Its intention is to re-examine the question of inscription on the list of World Heritage in Danger l next summer.

The Old Procuraties on Saint Mark’s Square in Venice.

© Alessandra Chemollo, 2022

The “List of World Heritage Sites in Danger” is a register maintained by UNESCO that lists World Heritage sites that require urgent conservation action. It aims both to raise awareness among the international community of threats to cultural heritage and to provide financial and technical assistance to local governments. The inclusion or removal of a site from this list depends on the assessment of its condition and the effectiveness of conservation measures.

At the time of this decision, 55 sites appeared on this list, including four in Europe: the historic center of Vienna (Austria), the mining landscape of Rosia Montană (Romania), the medieval monuments in Kosovo (Serbia) and the center history of Odessa (Ukraine). To these four sites, we must now add two other sites of Ukrainian cultural heritage: the Saint Sophia Cathedral and all the monastic buildings associated with kyiv, as well as the historic center of Lviv. These two sites were inscribed on the list of world heritage in danger on September 15 by the World Heritage Committee, due to the threat of destruction posed by the Russian offensive.

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