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Extract from 170EX/14 August 2004
(pdf version of the complete document)

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COMMENTS BY THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL ON THE EXTERNAL EVALUATION REPORTS SUBMITTED IN THE 2002-2003 BIENNIUM

 

SMALL HISTORICAL COASTAL CITIES (SHCC)

Brief description and background of programme evaluated

18. Small Historical Coastal Cities: The initiative on Small Historical Coastal Cities (SHCC) was launched in 1996 on the Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI) platform for intersectoral cooperation. It had as its main objective the promotion, among public policy-makers, of the principles of an integrated approach to the sustainable social and urban development of small and medium-sized historic cities in South-Eastern European and Mediterranean coastal regions. The initiative has its origin in a meeting of a group of experts in Malmo in 1996. UNESCO had brought together anthropologists, hydrologists, architects, social scientists and other specialists to share their expertise and contribute to efforts aimed at preventing or stopping deterioration in cities in these regions. This initiative is based on research that has been done on rural-urban migration in the Arab region by the Social and Human Sciences Sector. It takes into account the priorities that have been set by the UNESCO Science Sector for the sustainable management of freshwater resources and the sustainable development of coastal regions. The SHCC initiative functioned as an intersectoral network involving the Management of Social Transformation (MOST) Programme, the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), and the CSI Programme, with the cooperation of the UNESCO Field Offices in Beirut, Rabat, Tunis (Office closed in December 2001) and Venice. The CSI Programme provided a platform for several working groups in the implementation of the initiative.

19. UNESCO’s activities: Since 1996, UNESCO’s intersectoral effort to support the environment and development of coastal regions has been promoted: the Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform for intersectoral cooperation was launched in 1996 by the General Conference to establish and support various intersectoral initiatives. It has focused inter alia on: implementing a programme providing technical assistance and exchanging expertise among coastal cities; promoting the use of a common language among different groups of experts who play an active part in the development of coastal cities; heightening public awareness among local populations and supporting their participation; identifying and mapping areas where urgent intervention is needed; and conducting case studies which will help to both refine the methods used in the project and evaluate its impacts. The first five case studies included in the SHCC initiative involved Essaouira, Morocco (1997), Omišalj, Croatia (1998), Madhia, Tunisia (1999), Saida, Lebanon (2001) and Jableh, Syria (2003). These cities were selected after official requests from Member States.

20. This evaluation: The evaluation was launched at the initiative of the MOST programme to strengthen the ongoing general evaluation and the reorientation for MOST Phase II (2004-2009). The overall purpose of the evaluation was to measure the impact of the SHCC initiative on urban development in the five pilot cities, to identify lessons learned aimed at ensuring sustainability and eventual replication to other regions. The evaluation was conducted in two parts: first, the evaluator produced a preliminary report based on the study of SHCC documents and interviews conducted with stakeholders in three of the five pilot cities (Essaouira, Mahdia, Omišalj) and with UNESCO staff. Secondly, UNESCO organized a meeting with all partners including mayors, national and international experts, and NGO representatives at the site of the first pilot city in Essaouira, Morocco. The evaluator presented the draft evaluation report at this meeting, and obtained further inputs, including feedback on the draft and recommendations on the future orientation of the initiative, from the stakeholders.

Major findings (lessons and constraints)

21. The evaluation recognized several achievements arising from UNESCO’s implementation of the initiative, including:

(a) The first in UNESCO: The SHCC initiative was launched in 1996, thus becoming a forerunner of cross-cutting intersectoral initiatives in UNESCO.

(b) A compendium of characteristics: A compendium of characteristics observed in the five cities was compiled. These characteristics include: (1) threats to the sustainable provision of clean water and sanitation facilities; (2) increasing instability of the coastlines; (3) the destruction of archaeological heritage and loss of the city’s sociocultural heritage; (4) untamed consumption of coastal lands and natural zones by urbanization; (5) the disappearance of traditional and artisanal activities; and (6) the overpopulation of historical city centres due to waves of rural migration and the flight of youth to regional capitals. This compendium has been instrumental in drawing the attention of local decision-makers to the socio-economic, cultural and environmental aspects of urban development and the need to define multidisciplinary approaches to the urban development problems in their cities.

(c) Re-looking at urban development: The significant participation of high level international experts in meetings organized by the SHCC initiative led to extensive discussions and critiques of various urban development plans based primarily on the results of scientific research. A public debate was thus opened within the municipalities, which in part had led to the reformulation or cancellation of several urban development projects that could have worsened the deteriorating conditions in the cities concerned.

(d) Some results at pilot country level: Results at the pilot country level include: (1) In Mahdia, Tunisia, the local authorities relocated a marina project that was planned for a site near the Punic port. This was seen as the first major action denoting concern for the preservation of cultural heritage; (2) in Omišalj, Croatia excavations and archaeological restoration of the Basilica of Fulfinium were successfully integrated in the overall Urban Master Plan; (3) in Saida, Lebanon the local and regional authorities have launched several initiatives concerning the redevelopment of the coastline near the old city and the redesign of the urban waterfront; (4) in Jableh, Syria there is now a heightened sense of awareness of the value of archaeological vestiges from the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras and the environmental value of the seaside; and (5) in Essaouira, Morocco national and regional authorities have supported municipality efforts to implement some major UNESCO recommendations relating to the opening of the airport and a plan to safeguard the medina. The medina has since been included on the World Heritage List.

(e) SHCC initiatives and partnerships: The qualities of partnerships involved in the SHCC initiative were recognized by the evaluation to have greatly improved as the implementation progressed over the years. At the start, European universities undertook the diagnostics and analyses, but later European universities and local universities, and NGOs collaborated in various studies and initiatives in urban development. Examples include: (1) in partnership with the Nantes and Tunis Schools of Architecture, a local NGO had the responsibility to put into service the Maison-Laboratoire which helped to reconstitute traditional knowledge and to ensure its transfer to the city residents, and (2) European universities, including the Architectural Faculty of Zagreb, Croatia worked in a multidisciplinary manner in the implementation of the Omišalj pilot case.

22. The evaluation recognized the following challenges from UNESCO’s implementation of the SHCC initiative:

(a) Coordination mechanism: The SHCC initiative, while intersectoral in its design and implementation, preceded the establishment of UNESCO’s cross-cutting themes and as such was not supported by a formal coordination structure at Headquarters or in the field. The evaluation identified the absence of a formalized coordination mechanism as one of the key shortcomings. Without it the initiative was not able to attend fully to operational and support functions such as ensuring administrative coordination between the sectors, information transfer, and sharing of best practices. As a result, both UNESCO and the municipalities were unable to learn effectively and capitalize on the successes as well as the challenges.

(b) Absence of a unified conceptual approach: Absent in the SHCC initiative was a unified conceptual approach formulated in the form of a standard project document. In order to reinforce the initiative for the future, there is a need to develop a common conceptual approach, to convert individual criteria from each pilot into a unique approach that is coherent and able to be adapted on a case-by-case basis and also serve as a basis for measuring progress. To create such an integrated approach would require putting stakeholders from each pilot city into a position where they can share information on their individual experiences.

Recommendations

23. Following their analysis, the evaluator recommended that the following measures be considered:

(a) Global concept of the SHCC initiative: On the basis of the knowledge acquired, UNESCO needs to develop a concept document for the initiative that clearly articulates its key aspects and to ensure its wide distribution. In particular, it is necessary to clarify the links between the components of the problem (the land-sea interface, urban and cultural heritage). This multidisciplinary approach should permit the development of terms of reference around which an approach appropriate to each of the existing cities in the pilot study is to be constructed, thus providing a framework for the transfer of experience to other areas.

(b) Equip the future SHCC cross-cutting project with a steering committee: Transform the SHCC informal intersectoral initiative into a formal cross-cutting project. In light of the complexity of the initiative, UNESCO should formalize a steering committee that would link Headquarters and the field offices with the support of a committee of specialists. The initiative covers territory falling within the responsibilities of the Regional Bureaux in Venice and Beirut, and the Rabat Office. To take advantage of competencies of the field offices and to strengthen the management group (the steering committee), the evaluation suggests that the steering committee be composed of one individual from each of these field offices, in addition to international experts and programme specialists from Headquarters.

(c) Internal procedures: UNESCO should establish the conditions and roles of each partner (Headquarters and field offices), the distribution of resources, relations with other stakeholders, identical to the procedures that guide cross-cutting theme projects.

d) Thematic specializations: Each of the participating field offices should be responsible for a specific thematic area. The distribution could be the following: Venice: coastline, hydrology, hydro-ecology, humid zones, cultural and ecotourism; Beirut: heritage, architecture, urban issues; Rabat: Cultural and ecotourism; Paris: the coastal regions and small island (CSI) platform with the technical assistance of the Division of Water Sciences and the section for Urban Development in the Social and Human Sciences Sector.

(e) Information exchanges: Ensure the publication and dissemination of conceptual and methodological work completed by experts and the universities working in the pilot study cities.

(f) Development of training activities: It is recommended that the lessons learned serve towards the development of a training of technicians and municipal leaders, as well as the creation of appropriate curricula in the universities of the region.

(g) Creation of a network among the five pilot cities: UNESCO should promote the creation of a network among the five pilot cities for the purpose of facilitating exchanges (visits by professionals, students or residents) by the municipality in order for the partner cities to know one another. UNESCO should further promote contact between the universities already engaged in the pilot study cities with counterparts in university and research centres in Europe and in other cultural areas with a view to raising their awareness and interest in the approach.

(h) Prepare an effective transfer to additional cities: The conditions by which additional cities might join the network should take into account the lessons of the initiative, namely: there should exist a local project that fulfils the criteria to be announced by UNESCO; there should exist local partners who clearly express their interest to work in concert with others in the project; and UNESCO should engage local authorities, municipalities, regional and national associations and universities in the project.

Action taken/to be taken by the Director-General

24. The Director-General has together with all major partners in the SHCC initiative acknowledged the findings of the evaluation, which demonstrate that the initiative has achieved important results in each of the five cities involved in the pilot studies. The evaluator noted the shortfall of the initiative not having a formalized coordination structure, and argued that it would now make sense for it to be aligned as a cross-cutting project. The Director-General recognizes that several pertinent details still have to be developed before a decision is taken on transforming the SHCC initiative into a set of cross-cutting projects. Further, he notes that UNESCO is reviewing the effectiveness of the mechanisms for managing existing cross-cutting intersectoral activities. He therefore calls on the respective stakeholders to take the following actions:

(a) Prepare the necessary project documentation for future SHCC initiatives covering details such as the collaborating sectors/divisions, the overall strategies, including the thematic and managerial issues, the expected results, how best to structure the set of projects for UNESCO to be able to effectively achieve results, networking, information exchange, training, and the modalities for additional cities to join the initial five cities.

(b) Consider how best to appropriately programme a cross-cutting set of projects with a view to reinforcing municipalities’ awareness and action on their roles in countering rural urban migratory movements, revitalizing coastal historic districts and enhancing coastal environment for sustainable urban development. Municipalities are to be encouraged to include in their new urban public policies the principles of “the Right to the City”: respect and protection in fulfilling the basic needs for all inhabitants – issues important to UNESCO’s mandate.

 

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