Engage achieved its aim of raising the £1500 to be able to attend the forthcoming 5th World Heritage Watch (WHW) Civil Society Forum and the 42nd Session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) to be held in Manama, Bahrain from 22nd June. Flights have been booked and a hotel organised. Gerry Proctor MBE, Chair of Engage, left for the meetings on 21st at 6.30am for Manchester Airport, then Heathrow and arriving at Manama, Bahrain after a 7hr flight.


23.06.18 Temperatures outside are 36 degrees at present making it almost impossible to leave the hotel! Everyone attending the World Heritage Watch 5th International Forum on World Heritage at Risk is staying in the Ramada Hotel which is where all our meetings are held. Today is the final day of the two-day event and yesterday I presented the Liverpool case for retaining our WHS status. There has been a huge amount of interest in how Liverpool has managed to seem so positive compared to last year’s meeting where everything looked pretty desperate. Today we heard from Dr Mechtild Roessler, the Director of the World Heritage Centre in Paris and the one who gave permission to Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel to come to Liverpool for Engage’s WHS Seminar Series. I have been tweeting during the event and it has been really moving to hear reports from all over the world about WHS that are at risk. After my presentation yesterday a number of delegates said they would like to visit the city as it seemed so beautiful!

24.06.18 Today the WHW group went on a site tour of the WHS within Manama City where we are staying. It was extremely hot again and quite tiring. It made me realise that what we have to offer in Liverpool far exceeds what other places have and yet we don’t make much of it. We need to be signposting all our WHS buildings and areas clearly with the UNESCO WHS logo and descriptions of what they are and why they are WHS worthy. Some of our buildings are in private hands others in government hands but both need to step up to the mark and agree a co-ordinated approach to presenting ourselves as one of the cities in the world with the largest amount of WHS property of any city anywhere. In the evening everyone got dressed up for the opening ceremony of the 42nd Session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in the Bahrain National Theatre. It was a glamorous affair in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa but I have to  say with speeches that seemed full of platitudes and light on any challenge or serious policy concerns. Afterwards only the great and the good got an invite to the opening dinner – not any of us at WHW! So we sat around outside waiting patiently for our bus to arrive to take us back to the hotel. During that time a young man came out from the banquet and told us that there were empty tables and food going to waste would we like to come in?! So we did! And a great night was had by all! I was introduced to Cllr Omar Al-Rawi from Vienna City Council who has serious concerns about development in WHS city centres and the poor judgement of ICOMOS and UNESCO (in his view) regarding design in cities, especially tall buildings. Vienna is like Liverpool a WHS at Risk. I suggested we should work together to call a conference on the theme with academics from both our cities and others who have similar problems. I also met the delegates from Historic England. Liverpool’s City Council delegation is not arriving until Monday afternoon I was told.

WHW released 2 Press Statements:

Bahrain Forum Press Release Climate Change

Bahrain Forum Press Release Water

25.06.18 Today the work of the 42nd Session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) began. I attended most of the day and the whole of the afternoon session which was predominantly procedural and receiving reports and discussing them. Not a lot to excite anyone until that is Sweden spoke and was the only Government to encourage the importance of giving a voice at WHC proceedings to civil society. It was like being at the UN, with the event being chaired by the famous Bahraini lawyer Sheika Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, and countries allowed to speak for a maximum of 3mins each. I met some interesting people, including the Liverpool delegation who had literally just flown in (Peter Jones from Planning, Lesley Woodbridge, WHS Coordinator and Cllr Alice Bennett, Mayoral Lead for Heritage) and also Dr Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel from the World Heritage Centre in Paris who was Engage’s first guest speaker in our seminar series last year. She was delighted to meet me and was full of praise for what Liverpool had achieved since last year’s WHC in Poland. I also met two wonderful young heritage professionals who were interested in the Liverpool story: Gaelle Stephan and Anthony Rizk and invited them to come to see us as part of their studies. Tomorrow is the Liverpool discussion under Item 7a World Heritage at Risk. I have prepared an intervention which I will have ready in case I am called – which I hope to be!

26.06.18 The day has arrived when Liverpool will be voted on at the WHC assembly. I arrived early  to make sure I had a space where when invited to speak I can be seen by the Chair. Having internet problems today as the WiFi doesn’t seem to be working. At last we are back on-line! Below is the resolution submitted from the  WHW Forum to the WHC meeting:

WHW Resolution 2018 Liverpool

Also below is the Statement that Engage hopes to make later today under Item 7a:

Engage Statement to WHC Bahrain 2018

Currently I am nervously awaiting the call from the chair which I hope will happen at the end of the vote about the closed items under 7a. 7a now being discussed! Following the procedure closely. We had a brief interlude when the meeting of World Heritage Site Managers was presented to the committee members and the meeting with significant declarations made by them following their first meeting. It would be good if Liverpool could attend this in the future.

Currently discussing Item 42 COM 7a.4 about Uzbekistan, Liverpool is Item 42 COM 7a.7 – waiting patiently! Wow they’ve recommended that Shakhrisyabz be deleted! It is amazing listening to all of this. Now Azerbaijan is pleading for their neighbour. Claiming that they only demolished 10% of the buildings in the WHS for good reasons! The State Party wants to keep their designation as a WHS and are really very nice people and well intentioned! The ambassador went over his allotted time of 03.00 by 02.55 whilst telling everyone they shouldn’t be hasty to delete the site! For exceeding his time he was criticised by the chair. Cuba now saying the  government doesn’t seem as bad as all that. They are criticising the work of the secretariat. Now Indonesia says we should give more time to the State Party. Tanzania, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Tunisia all queuing up to speak! It is obvious that this is a great opportunity for friends  to  support and enemies  to criticise! There is clearly a lot of politics going on more than real heritage concerns it seems to me. China now weighs in to support the State Party against the secretariat! This doesn’t look like it will get carried. Tunisia now supporting the experts while asking what has WHC done to assist the State Party – and we need to give them more time! Spain now states that this is really serious and lamentable what has happened – there is ‘irreversible damage’  done as reported by the experts, not done by war or conflict but by the government. Brazil says de-listing is dramatic and asks what could ICOMOS have done to avoid this situation? Kuwait now calling for the WHC to vote against the recommendations! Only 10% has been destroyed let’s focus on the 90% that remains! We’re not even sure about that figure of 10% – could be fake news!

Following the lunch break there have been amendments suggested which completely change the report and therefore the draft resolution about deleting the Uzbekistan property which I suggest might now be carried and the site remains At Risk. The Chair decided to postpone the decision until later in the week whilst another Resolution was drawn up that would satisfy the majority of members.

Did anyone notice the City Council Press Office jumping the gun this morning and releasing a statement that it was all over and the vote had been taken! Well it hasn’t and some tweets stating the same thing were also inaccurate! You can continue to trust Engage for accuracy!

Now we get to Liverpool on the list. Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel is to present for us and she did and we got voted through! I then jumped up to  demand a word and was allowed to speak! I was exactly within the 2mins allocated to NGOs and afterwards received applause from some of the members (the first one so far!) So it was all worthwhile and the voice of our residents was heard loud  and clear. Afterwards I was congratulated by Keith Nichol from DCMS and Helen McLagan also with the UK delegation from UNESCO UK, as well as Henry Owen-John from Historic England. The time of my intervention was about 15.45. I will try and get a copy of the intervention tomorrow from the live-stream and post it here. Click on the link below and un-mute if there is no sound:

Now I am taking a break for the rest of the day.  That took a lot out of me in nervous exhaustion hoping I would be seen in the split second when the chair brought down the gavel stating the motion had been passed and before she moved to the next item. All went well and I must pay special thanks and express my profound gratitude to the many people who funded my trip here to speak up for the people of Liverpool. It was worth it!

27.06.18 We are starting my final day at the WHC in Bahrain and there is so much I would like to say about how the UNESCO WHC works in practice. Today we have started looking at the African natural WHS that are At Risk (Liverpool is a cultural site). What I am finding shocking is the way that the different nations through their Ambassadors work in blocks that means basically that it is rare to get a government that acts in the best interest of the heritage at risk. I also had some amazing conversations last night, with people who shall remain nameless, about how surprised I was with the way Liverpool was treated by UNESCO compared with other sites that are in a far worse state than ours. It was then shared with me that probably the main reason was the unfortunate personality of the previous UK UNESCO Ambassador who managed to get everyone’s backs up by his poor personal relationships with member states. Liverpool, it  was said, was most likely pay-back time from the other nations for the way they had felt treated! That isn’t to say that there weren’t issues that seriously needed (and need) to be addressed but that the whole process was far worse than it ought to have been. Politics! Of course we didn’t help matters with our home-grown politically belligerent response which did us no favours. A perfect storm that could have been avoided if our representatives had been different people. I was told that is why the intervention last year in Krakow and this year in Bahrain by Engage had such a positive effect. The State Parties were moved by the simple voice of ordinary people and it managed to cut through an adverse political atmosphere of which we were completely unaware.

After almost 2 hours reflecting upon the state of Africa’s National Parks, Wild Game Reserves and Safari Parks, many of which are At Risk, we have now moved to the cultural WHS At Risk in the Asia-Pacific region. In this section Lahore in Pakistan will come up and I have worked closely with a colleague from there who is fighting a valiant battle against terrible obstacles  including from the State Party. More later as the discussion unfolds.

You can follow all of this on the live streaming HERE

During the lunch break I attended a packed meeting about the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) organised by the UNESCO World Heritage Cities Programme. It was really important and fascinating. Bordeaux was held up for everyone as an example of a city that has really taken the HUL principles seriously and therefore worthy of emulation. I was delighted to discover that it is one of the three WHS cities Engage is inviting to Liverpool for our autumn seminar series. Also I was able to thank former Deputy Director of UNESCO Francesco Bandarin for his support of Engage during the past 2 years and inform him of how far the city had now come.

I went back into the Hall for the afternoon session and was approached by a woman who it turned out was the UNESCO Ambassador for Austria, Dr Claudia Reinprecht, who asked me to step outside for a conversation with 2 of her colleagues about the insights we might have for her regarding Vienna and how civil society might play a role in the issues that face them (which are very similar in many ways to Liverpool). It was a joyous conversation and we shared some useful ideas from our experiences in Liverpool. What had surprised them was Engage’s ability to speak positively and gratefully about the City Council and Peel Holdings.  We looked at potential collaborations in the future around a conference with UNESCO and local universities about tall buildings and the challenges of building in a WHS.

Now the WHC is studying the Fort and Shalamar Gardens in Lahore, Pakistan. The report by the UNESCO WHC Secretariat is very fair and accurate including excellent images reflecting the true nature of the high-line metro development (the Orange Line) built by the Lahore City Council. But as soon as it is opened to the floor the delegation from Azerbaijan disagreed that Pakistan should have this site put on the At Risk list. Then Brazil and China weighed in with the same approach. It must actually be extremely difficult working for the WHC Secretariat and for ICOMOS to watch your carefully balanced work and reports being overturned by the countries on the WHC. Many simply will not stand for any criticism of their neighbours or regional partners or co-religionists. It is an example of not wanting to listen to the experts while thanking them for their work. Now every country speaking supports the government of Pakistan! I am sitting next to the civil society delegate from Lahore during this debate and it is painful to see what is happening. Norway alone supports the Secretariat and ICOMOS! More countries lining up to support Pakistan! This is a fascinating example because it shows how differently the Committee treats different sites. Here the damage is done and still a majority will not list it as At Risk –  and yet Liverpool…!

Gerry Proctor


Article published in Your Move magazine 26.06.18 HERE

Article published on the Echo website 26.06.18 HERE

Article on BBC website 26.06.18 HERE

Engage has submitted a report on Liverpool’s World Heritage Site (WHS) which was recently published in the WHW Report 2018 which will be distributed to every voting delegate at the  WHC meeting in Bahrain  this month. It has also drafted a Resolution to be put to the WHW Forum for approval by the delegates which will then be submitted to the WHC 42nd Session.

Engage joined World Heritage Watch last year. WHW is a new world-wide organisation founded in St.Petersburg  in 2012 to improve the effectiveness of civil society’s involvement in the World Heritage Convention, its Committee and Advisory Bodies (such as ICOMOS and IUCN) in addition to the NGOs’ respective state parties.

“It is time for civil society to join hands with UNESCO’s World Heritage Mission, by identifying threats, their causes and advocating remedies. The World Heritage should not be relegated to government offices alone. Local populations and indigenous peoples should be supported by concerned citizens to protect their world heritage.”

To that end WHW holds a Forum immediately prior to the annual meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.  Over 50 NGOs including Engage attended the 4th WHW Forum in Kraków in 2017.  As a result Engage has been able to network with decision makers and other key players as well as making alliances with people from all over the world who are equally concerned about their WHS status.

You can follow WHW news from the network on Facebook and their new Twitter account. You can read the full report below and Liverpool is on pages 123-125:

WHW Report 2018

You can also see the draft resolution about Liverpool being put to the WHW Forum and also follow the full WHW programme below:

WHW Draft Resolution Liverpool 2018

WHW Bahrain Forum Program

You can read the full report to the World Heritage Committee HERE Draft Report on p4 and Draft Decision on p6. Agenda ref. 42.COM/7A.7

All working documents for the WHC 42nd Session can be found HERE

World Heritage UK welcomes ‘mood change’ in Liverpool HERE

Merseyside Civic Society Bahrain Statement HERE

We have raised our total of £1,500 which is utterly amazing and a real testimony to the passion Liverpool city centre residents and businesses have for the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Our chair Gerry Proctor 25 seconds into his 2 mins speech to UNESCO WHC 26th June 2018 in Bahrain: