Project or context description
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela dating from the 13th century constitutes a sacred and pilgrimage site for Ethiopians. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1978 under the following 3 criteria constituting the property's outstanding universal value:
Criterion (i): All the eleven churches represent a unique artistic achievement, in their execution, size and the variety and boldness of their form.
Criterion (ii): The King of Lalibela set out to build a symbol of the holy land, when pilgrimages to it were rendered impossible by the historical situation. In the Church of Biet Golgotha, are replicas of the tomb of Christ, and of Adam, and the crib of the Nativity. The holy city of Lalibela became a substitute for the holy places of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and as such has had considerable influence on Ethiopian Christianity.
Criterion (iii): The whole of Lalibela offers an exceptional testimony to the medieval and post-medieval civilization of Ethiopia, including, next to the eleven churches, the extensive remains of traditional, two storey circular village houses with interior staircases and thatched roofs.
The Ethiopian Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural heritage is the main institution responsible for the preservation of sites inscribed in World heritage of UNESCO among others. Its roles involve the supervision of the National Museum, all inventoried heritages in Ethiopia and has the duty to preserve them and to present the collection, as well as to accomplish an inventory of the manuscripts preserved in the churches. On the other hand, the Museum preserves a collection of manuscripts.
The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and the French Embassy in Addis Ababa have made available a fund dedicated to a feasibility study with the objective of producing diagnoses and preliminary studies necessary for the definition of a design/works project for the conservation, restoration and enhancement of the site. Expertise France, as the implementing operator, played the role of expert mobilizer for all the activities of the feasibility study led by a Chief Architect in Monuments Conservation. This study demonstrated the need to cover the entire site before proceeding to the restoration of these churches and among 3 architectural solutions proposed the canopy sheltering was adopted.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee at the 2021 session (see in annex the Decision) gave its agreement in principle for the proposed solution. However, it is expected from Ethiopia to submit a final design of preservation and restauration works for validation at the next summer session of the Committee. The need to undertake geotechnical and hydraulic studies, as proposed by the Scientific Committee, was decided by the Steering Committee when the Preliminary Design was adopted (may 2021).
UNESCO has also still pending environmental and management requirements (see Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela - UNESCO World Heritage Centre) : “For centuries, the Church and State have been jointly responsible for the holy site of Lalibela. Home to a large community of priests and monks, it is a living site which draws many pilgrims to celebrate the great feasts of the Ethiopian Christian calendar. This active and energetic perspective is central to the management of the site. No special legal framework is provided to protect the Rock-Hewn Churches except the general law, Proclamation No. 209/2000, which has also established the institution in charge, the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH). With the Ethiopian Church as a partner, the ARCCH has a representative in Lalibela but a principle difficulty has been the harmonization of the different projects and effective coordination between the partners. The property is administered under the regional and the Lasta district culture and tourism office. To prevent the property from the impact of development, a draft proclamation has been prepared but this is not yet ratified. A management plan has not yet been established. A four year Conservation Plan was established in 2006 but this has yet to be fully implemented. The boundary for the property has not yet been clearly delineated and a buffer zone has not yet been provided. There is a need for stronger planning controls for the setting of the churches that address housing, land-use tourism and for a management plan to be developed that integrates the Conservation action plan, and addresses the overall sustainable development of the area, with the involvement of the local population.”
Before the finalization of the design and during the preparation of the tender documents to recruit the architects implementing the solution, a geotechnical and hydraulic studies will be undertaken to be considered in the final design. An environmental, social and heritage impact assessments is ongoing in parallel and the reports are expected by the World heritage committee.
All these deliverables and any others, if needed, , and reporting and presentation of the final Ethiopian proposal to UNESCO should be properly coordinated by an expert with extensive experience in World Heritage Sites and UNESCO procedures.
A minimum of 8 years of experience in the management of World heritage cultural sites at the international level;
Excellent knowledge of the statutory mechanisms of the 1972 Convention of the World Heritage and good knowledge of UNESCO/ICOMOS/ ICCROM working documents;
Experience in national or regional implementation of cultural programmes within an African country;
Excellent knowledge of English both oral and written;
Knowledge of the Ethiopian context is desired.
Selection criteria for applications
The selection process for candidates will be based on the following criteria:
Candidate’s experiences linked with the expert mission.