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What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? Forum / What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? /  

Is the potential removal of Dresden from the World Heritage List reasonable?

Author meltwaterfalls
#1 | Posted: 8 May 2008 10:33 
It seems almost inevitable that Dresden is going to be removed from the list if the new bridge is built, but do you think this is reasonable?

I will be very sad to see Dresden removed as it was one of the real surprise cities that I have visited, I was really not expecting much but I found it to be great.
Having looked at the plans for the new bridge I don't really think they are too intrusive, the only real problem I can see is that it will disrupt the admittedly very impressive view of the centre made famous by Canaletto's paintings of it.
Is there even a reasonable argument to be had for it helping to preserve the cultural heritage of the city as it will be removing traffic from the historic centre.
Would UNESCO have opposed the building of the Blaues Wunder had it been around in 1893? Although the new bridge will not be as impressive as this the Blaues Wunder is an important part of the inscription.
It seems that there is a fine line between Heritage Management and preserving a place entirely as it is on the day of inscription.
I get the feeling that Dresden may be martyred to stop other large developments from affecting other sites.

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 8 May 2008 11:15 | Edited by: Solivagant 
I agree entirely that this as an example of UNESCO flexing its muscles unreasonably. First of all they choose a "far away place of which people know little" - viz Oman, for their first foray into removing a site from the list - "No one is going to argue too much about that are they and it shows we mean business!!". Then they choose a subject/site where they know there are big and vociferous pressure groups for them to whip up/support viz Dresden.

Be quite sure - the list will be immeasurably reduced in stature if Dresden is removed. In any case many of us will still regard it as being incontrovertably "World heritage" and do not need the bureaucrats in UNESCO to tell us what is and what is not! For us the list is a tool, not an end in itself, and we disagree as much regarding many sites already on the list as we do with many not yet inscribed but which should be!

I have a surprising amount of sympathy for those people around White Sands (NM) and Carrizo Plain (Ca) who have battled (unsuccessfully for the latter) for those sites NOT to be placed on the USA T List. For those who haven't followed this in the local press - a lot of the comments have been straight out of "Redneck" world with people fulminating against the "U.S of A" giving up its sovereignty to an organ of world government (Situated in Paris you know - home of the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys") and potential terrorists!

But there is more than a grain of truth in the downside of inscription - namely that you open yourself up as a hostage to green (and other) pressure groups. Nearly every week my "Google alerts" notify of me of some more nonsense along these lines. eg Councillors in Edinburgh who don't like some new arrangements regarding refuse collection and threaten that they will lead to "Edinburgh being removed from the list"!

Right from the start I have hoped that Dresden will have the back-bone to tell UNESCO where to go! You don't "need" it, it is getting far too big for its boots and needs to be shown that it doesn't call all the shots. In the early days of the World Heritage scheme they were desperate to accept any site as they couldn't be sure of its success (I don't subscribe to the view that the best ones were the earliest ones by the way!). Unfortunately now the list of sites wanting inscription grows apace and UNESCO feels that it can exert pressure on those already "inside". It is amusing to read the reasons given for seeking inscription - they mainly relate to hopes of a tourist bonanza in the case of developed countries and of pots of money in the case of developing ones! Like so much within UN agencies there is far too much of a "nationalist" and political agenda in the nomination and inscription process. China obviously sees it as a means of it gaining its rightful place in world culture - Britain, Spain and Germany parcel out the nominations between the Countries, Regions and Lšnder. Big money gets spent on consultant fees etc to produce documentation which presses all the right buttons - we have a situation which moves towards "Never mind the quality of the site - feel the depth of the documentation"!!

UNESCO will say that they have a responsibility towards the "values" of inscription but they are compromising on these all over the place anyway. So why choose to make an example of a site which, even with a bridge, is far more "World Heritage" than a lot of the "buggins turn" and other sites of dubious value which have found their way onto the List?

A recent review of the Casa Barragan raises the issue of UNESCO's unpredictability regarding which sites it chooses to impose some control over. There are many world class sites in developing countries where UNESCO could far more usefully be expending its efforts and expertise than in Dresden. I agree with Meltwaterfalls that the bridge is not the end of the world anyway and even has some plus points - if UNESCO are against it then perhaps it can't be all bad!

This is the first big battle in a long war - I hope Dresden doesn't give in as, tomorrow, UNESCO interference and oppression will come to a site near you as well! The decision should be left to the democratic processes of Germany and its people with no threat of deselection. Even with the bridge UNESCO should be proud to have Dresden on its list!

Author meltwaterfalls
#3 | Posted: 4 Jul 2008 04:58 | Edited by: meltwaterfalls 
As we get closer to the date I was just wondering if anyone else had an opionon on this, is it reasonable to remove it, will UNESCO carry out the threat?

Is this whole saga going to be a positive or negative thing for the 'institution' of the world heritage list:
Personally I do fear that it may weaken it, not only because such a great sight will be removed, but also because I think Dresden will fare pretty well out of the potential delisting and perhaps other 'big sites' will start to feel less presure to stick to the full rigors involved in being on the list.

Author meltwaterfalls
#4 | Posted: 4 Jul 2008 05:12 
Ok just after I wrote above coments UNESCO anounced that they have not removed Dresden from the list but will remove it next year if the bridge is built

From the UNESCO website:
The Committee said it regretted the construction of the bridge underway and urged the authorities to opt for the digging of a tunnel in its stead. It said that in the event that the construction of the bridge was not stopped and damage reversed, the property would be deleted from the World Heritage List in 2009. Meanwhile the property remains on the Danger List.

Though it has been delayed for a year is this still justified, is this delay a reasonable tactic?

Author Solivagant
#5 | Posted: 4 Jul 2008 06:25 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Does anyone know exactly where the bridge has reached in terms of its construction? The pictures show diggers etc in place. It all seems very unlikely that construction would stop now - all the contractors would no doubt require massive cancellation payments and the costs of restoration and building an alternative (eg tunnel) would make it a very expensive volte face.

I still don't think that this was the right preservation battle for UNESCO to tie its colours to the mast over - there are far more important preservation matters to fight. I still hope that Germany will not kow-tow to UNESCO bullying. UNESCO must hope that the extra year will give internal forces opposing the construction more time to exert pressure but the decision not to remove Dresden from the list seems to show that UNESCO know that its position is weak - places like Dresden don't "need" WHS status to remain major "heritage" destinations and tourist sites. I guess that there are a number of tourists each year who go there BECAUSE it is a WHS (Meltwaterfalls himself?!!) but the majority will go anyway. Only the less noteworthy sites which intend trading on their status will worry about delisting.

A threat once carried out loses all potency and, as Meltwaterfalls indicates, the "World" will note that it has not come to an end after Dresden is delisted! Then St Petersburg will say - that tower will be quite an icon and we should build it etc etc. How many major world sites could UNESCO delist and still have a worthwhile list!

UNESCO needs to engage in a far wider/deeper debate about what sort of developments are acceptable in historic sites. At the moment it appears be on the side of those who support a "zero development", "freeze them in aspic" point of view rather than "these are living places with a continuous history and our own era should be able to add its own structures" approach.

What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? Forum / What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? /
 Is the potential removal of Dresden from the World Heritage List reasonable?

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