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World Heritage List Sites in Canada and Egypt: Meeting the Criteria for

Outstanding Universal Value

Wadi Al-Hitan, Egypt (photo D.A. Donnelly 27 March 2015)

Debborah Donnelly
15200636
University College Dublin
World Heritage Conservation
October 15, 2015

D.A. Donnelly

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Introduction
The UNESCO World Heritage List (WHL) includes both cultural and natural properties around
the globe that are established as meeting the concept of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)
eligible for international recognition and protection by being examined and analysed for
specific criteria. This essay will look at the main actors involved in all aspects of the
determination, as well as how specific case studies from Canada and Egypt have met or are
attempting to meet the components necessary to achieve and maintain listing.
Outstanding Universal Value
According to the UNESCO Operational Guidelines (2015a, Para. 49) “Outstanding Universal
Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend
national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all
humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance to
the international community as a whole. The Committee defines the criteria for the inscription
of properties on the World Heritage List.”
The idea of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ is inherently optimistic and has produced
philosophical debates regarding both ‘universalism’ and ‘cultural relativism’ (Cave, 2015).1 But
as we have seen in recent decades the perception of ‘universal’ appeal has been challenged
by those that would seek out and destroy monuments and sites that most would consider
having significant cultural or natural value. While one can argue that the majority rules, this
has not prevented groups like the Taliban, Islamic State or even big corporations and
governments from destroying habitat or blowing up statues and sites in Afghanistan, Mali and
Syria.
Following the latest destruction in Syria of the Arch of Triumph at Palmyra, UNESCO DirectorGeneral, Irina Bokova stated, “this new destruction shows how terrified by history and culture
these extremists are, because understanding the past undermines and delegitimizes the
pretexts they use to justify these crimes and exposes them as expressions of pure hatred and
ignorance,” (Silo, 2015).
The current Canadian government for example, sees no problem in subsidizing the ‘tar sands’
(Anderson, 2014) and removing protection of inland waterways (McDiarmid, 2012). So while
many would see these latter actions as counterproductive to fostering natural heritage
protection, it shows that some do not, therefore the use of the term ‘universal’ needs to be
understood as a generalisation.
It is unlikely that all interested parties and their respective cultural traditions, religious beliefs,
or economic priorities could be represented in a single list of sites. What UNESCO attempts
to do with the World Heritage List is to gain consensus on and provide guidelines and
recommendations for maintaining particular worldwide sites that have significant value
according to a set number of criteria.
Components
There are several things that must be taken into consideration when reviewing a proposed
site for inclusion on the list. These include an assessment against a set of 10 criteria as well
as ensuring that the site is ‘authentic’ and is of sufficient ‘integrity’, as well as being an excellent

1

Cave (2015) refers to a paper by Jokilehto, J. (2006) that discusses these concepts thoroughly.

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‘representative’, and fulfilling the requirement for ‘diversity’. All of these will be explained
below.
Criteria
The criteria designated by UNESCO include the following descriptions for both Cultural and
Natural sites. According to UNESCO (2015a, Operational Guidelines, Para. 77) Cultural
Criteria include items (i) to (vi); Natural Criteria include items (vii) to (x).
i.
ii.

Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
Exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a
cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental
arts, town-planning or landscape design;
Bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization
which is living or which has disappeared;
Be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological
ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
Be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use
which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the
environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible
change;
Be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with
beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
Contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and
aesthetic importance;
Be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the
record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of
landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
Be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological
processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and
marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
Contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of
biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of Outstanding
Universal Value from the point of view of science or conservation’.

iii.
iv.
v.

vi.
vii.
viii.

ix.

x.

Authenticity
Authenticity speaks to the accuracy and academic confirmation of all cultural features
specified in any nomination. According to the Operational Guidelines (UNESCO, 2015a,
Paragraphs 79-86), authenticity is a requirement for ensuring that cultural sites, as listed under
criteria (i) to (vi), can show their cultural values are ‘truthfully and credibly expressed’ through
a variety of attributes including:
-

Form and design;
Materials and substance;
Use and function;
Traditions, techniques and management systems;
Location and setting;
Language, and other forms of intangible heritage;
Spirit and feeling; and
Other internal and external factors.

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It is notable that under authenticity (Para 86), “the reconstruction of archaeological remains
or historic buildings or districts is justifiable only in exceptional circumstances. Reconstruction
is acceptable only on the basis of complete and detailed documentation and to no extent on
conjecture.” So hypothetical reconstructions based on similar sites is insufficient –
reconstruction should be done only to the limits that the archaeological or historical record
justifies.
Integrity
Integrity is a requirement for all sites, both natural and cultural, and is described fully in the
Operational Guidelines (UNESCO, 2015a, Paragraphs 87-95). The purpose is to ensure that
sufficient attributes, including geographic space is included to protect the boundaries of the
site and includes all necessary components to satisfy the description expressed in the
Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, and that the conditions have been assessed
regarding the potential or actual adverse effects of development and/or neglect. All should be
presented in a statement of integrity.
Representation
The concept of representation is that the sites listed will be extraordinary examples, the “best
example of its kind” (Cave, 2015). This is done by presenting a comparative analysis with
other properties in the “wider global or regional context” (UNESCO, 2015a, Operational
Guidelines, Para 122, and Annex 5 Explanatory Notes 3.2) as part of the justification for
inscription.
Diversity
The goal of the WHL is to have a representative list of both cultural and natural sites that
demonstrate a diversity of ecosystems and cultures.
Annex 4 of the Operational Guidelines on Authenticity in Relation to The World Heritage
Convention (Nara Document) promotes diversity by stating, “The diversity of cultures and
heritage in our world is an irreplaceable source of spiritual and intellectual richness for all
humankind. The protection and enhancement of cultural and heritage diversity in our world
should be actively promoted as an essential aspect of human development.”
Key Actors
The international World Heritage Committee (hereafter the Committee) is composed of 21
members of State Parties to the Convention, and one of their main functions (UNESCO,
2015a) is to determine which ‘cultural and natural properties of Outstanding Universal Value’
shall be listed or removed from the World Heritage List.2
The Secretariat, who is appointed by the Director General of UNESCO and is responsible for
documentation of the Committee’s meetings is also an actor and, “shall have the responsibility
for the implementation of its decisions”, (UNESCO, 1972, Article 14). This means the tracking
and follow-up with State Parties to carry out what is necessary as bound by decisions of the
Committee.
Advisory Bodies to the Committee include the ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of
the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), ICOMOS (the International Council on
Monuments and Sites), and IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature).

2

Operational Guidelines Chapter I.E The World Heritage Committee Items 24. a) and c)

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ICCROM functions are mainly to carry out research, technical assistance and training on
conservation for cultural heritage sites. They also monitor the conservation status of WHL
cultural sites and provide technical guidance to the Committee.
Both ICOMOS (cultural) and the IUCN (natural) evaluate properties for inclusion on the list as
well as promoting the conservation of sites.
State Parties are those countries3 who have agreed to follow the World Heritage Convention
and who nominate sites as well as implement any decisions by the Committee. The
organisations which fall under this heading can include not only the federal government
department(s) responsible for submitting a site to UNESCO to be recognised, but also
state/territorial/regional/provincial and municipal government departments and agencies that
will have more direct responsibility for supplying scientific documentation and plans for
protection and maintenance of the site.
The Duty of Protection of the sites falls under the responsibility of the State Parties (UNESCO,
1972, Article 4) “of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and
transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1
and 2 and situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State.”
Although it should be noted that under the Convention (UNESCO,1972), Article 7 stipulates
that “‘international protection of the world cultural and natural heritage shall be understood to
mean the establishment of a system of international co-operation and assistance designed to
support States Parties to the Convention in their efforts to conserve and identify that heritage.”
So the State Parties are not necessarily alone in their sole capacity to protect monuments and
sites.
Others
This section includes particular academic and scientific experts, consultants and educational
institutions that may provide more detailed information on the integrity and authenticity of a
site, or conservation recommendations. Other stakeholders like agencies, NGOs, private
organisations, and property owners (UNESCO, 2015a, Para 40) also have the right to question
the conservation and protection of any site, and many environmental groups and First Nations
councils also contribute information and data on sites for governmental reports.
Case Studies
The following case studies were chosen because they provide a diverse representation on the
differences of WHL sites, and have been personally visited by the author. The cultural sites,
the Klondike and the Theban necropolis were chosen for the fact they are described under
different criteria, and because the Klondike is only tentatively listed it is a good example to
show the process and considerations for attaining inscription. The natural site Wadi Al-Hitan,
was chosen specifically to contrast sites within Egypt.
Canada
Parks Canada is the State Party Representative to the Committee, and is responsible for either
full or shared management of 12 of the 17 Canadian WH sites.4 The other five sites are
managed by municipal or provincial authorities (Parks Canada, 2015).
The Canadian site is on the Tentative List and Parks Canada is the nominating party of record.

3
4

Currently there are 191 State Parties. (Cave and Negussie, 2015)
8 Cultural and 9 Natural (UNESCO, 2015); Canada has also submitted 7 properties on the Tentative List.

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WHTL-1941 The Tr’ondëk-Klondike

Fig. 1 Winning photographs of the T-K World Heritage 2015 Photograph Contest under the
categories of 1) sense of place, 2) people and culture, 3) activities and traditions (Parker,
2015)
The Klondike was first submitted and included under the Canadian tentative list in 2004 under
criteria (iv) and (v) with the following description. “The transboundary serial cultural
landscapes in First Nations traditional territories, including the Tr’ochëk fishing camp, and the
Chilkoot Trail, 5 the Klondike gold fields and the historic district of Dawson, illustrate life before,
during and after the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1898, the last and most renowned of the
world’s great 19th century gold rushes,” (UNESCO, 2015).
The proposed justifications for the Klondike claim are described on the Parks Canada website
(2015) as follows:
“Criterion (iv): The Klondike is an outstanding example of a landscape which illustrates
exceptional adaptation and innovation by First Nations people for thousands of years, up to
the present day, in responding to a challenging environment;
Criterion (v): It is an outstanding example of a mining landscape which includes the resource,
transportation, supply, administrative and institutional components.”
Actors involved with the nomination include the Tr’ondëk-Klondike Wold Heritage Site
Nomination Committee, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, the Government of the Yukon,
Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, City of Dawson, Dawson City Chamber
of Commerce, Dawson City Museum, Klondike Visitors Association, and Parks Canada
(Tr’ondëk-Klondike, 2015). Submission was first added to Canada’s Tentative List in 2004,
and since 2010 the T-K Advisory Committee has been actively involved in completing
documentation and necessary assessments to fulfil requirements as demonstrated in the
timeline below (Tr’ondëk-Klondike, 2015 Project History).

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According to the T-K world heritage site (Tr’ondëk-Klondike, 2015), the United States was not ready to
approve the American portion of the Chilkoot Trail so that section may not be included in the final nomination.

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Currently the project is in Stage Two, developing the nomination, including refining ‘the site’s
values and physical boundaries’ for inclusion on the WHL to ensure that the site meets
appropriate authenticity and integrity requirements. The nomination should be followed by
Stage Three, evaluation by either ICOMOS and/or the IUCN, and Stage Four the World
Heritage Committee Assessment (Tr’ondëk-Klondike, 2015).
The boundaries for the project should be defined under a statement of integrity and according
to Operational Guidelines (UNESCO, 2015a, Para 89), properties nominated under criteria (i)
to (vi) – like Tr’ondëk-Klondike – should ensure “the physical fabric of the property and/or its
significant features should be in good condition, and the impact of deterioration processes
controlled.”
While the description would already include many of the preserved buildings and both the SS
Keno and the gold fields, including the dredge (shown below), the entire town of Dawson City
may also include more recently restored buildings, so consideration of meeting restoration
requirements for the WHL need to be affirmed with any new construction projects.

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Fig. 2 Klondike Dredge and Sign – Dawson City, Yukon (Donnelly, 2013)
During recent reconstruction of the CIBC building (shown below) in Dawson City, the site has
yielded a stack of cancelled cheques from 1899 to 1903, from just after the time of the Gold
Rush (CBC News, 2015). The cheques can be used to help confirm the authenticity of the site
and hopefully the reconstruction of this particular building will meet the provisions under the
Operational Guidelines Para 86 referenced in the section on Authenticity above.

Fig. 3 The historic
Canadian
Imperial Bank of
Commerce
(CIBC) building
on Front Street,
Dawson City
(Donnelly, 2013)

Because final nomination documentation for T-K and a draft map of the proposed territory to
be included is not yet available, and referencing footnote 5 above, the suggested area is still
very large and under the current description should easy satisfy the requirements for integrity.

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For representation and diversity there is one other World Heritage listed ‘Gold Rush’ site
globally, Ouro Preto in Brazil,6 which was established in the 18th century and is listed under
differing qualifying criteria and a vastly differing culture.

Fig. 4 Modern mine near Dawson City (Donnelly, 2013)

Egypt
Wadi Al-Hitan was inscribed as a natural property on the WHL in 2005 under criterion (viii)
as “the most important site in the world to demonstrate one of the iconic changes that make
up the record of life on Earth: the evolution of the whales. It portrays vividly their form and
mode of life during their transition from land animals to a marine existence. It exceeds the
values of other comparable sites in terms of the number, concentration and quality of its
fossils, and their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape,” (UNESCO,
2015).
Wadi Al-Hitan is a palaeontological site in the Al Faiyum Governorate, and is listed as a Special
Protected Area within the Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area, under decree 2954 by Prime
Minister Kamal Ganzouri in 1997. It is managed under the regulations of Law 102/1983 on
Nature Protectorates. 7 The Nature Conservation Sector (NCS) of the Egyptian Environmental
Affairs Agency (EEAA)8, is responsible for the management, protection and conservation of
the entire site (Egyptian Ministry of Environment, 2012, Law 4, Article 5).
The nomination was submitted by the Arab Republic of Egypt Ministry of Higher Education,
the Egyptian National UNESCO Commission, and the Egyptian National Man and Biosphere
(MAB) Committee (UNESCO, 2005). It stated the following reasons (summarised here) for
submission and subsequent acceptance for inclusion on the WHL:

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It represents a major stage of evolution of whales.

It was inscribed in 1980 under criterion (i) and (iii) (UNESCO, 2015, Ouro Preto).
Reference the Egyptian Ministry of the Environment (1983)
8
The EEAA falls under the Egyptian Ministry of Environment - http://www.eeaa.gov.eg/en-us/home.aspx
7

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The site is famous for its excellent preservation of archaeoceti (an extinct sub-order of
whales) from the Eocene. There are at least 4 species on site, with the two most
common whales being the Basilosaurus isis and the Dorudon osiris which both contain
small hind legs and carnivorous teeth.
It contains the largest number of fossil Eocene whales anywhere in the world.
The site also contains fossil sirenians9 and other vertebrates as well as fossil mangrove
and palm trees.
The Whale Valley also exhibits significant ancient geomorphic and physiographic
features, indicative of past geographical, geological and ecological features.
(UNESCO, 2005 Nomination)

Because the Whale Valley falls within the extended area of the Wadi El-Rayan Protected Area
it is sufficiently large enough10 to present the fossils in situ with the surrounding geology (see
Cover Photo), which speaks to the integrity of the site (UNESCO, 2015, Wadi Al-Hitan,
Statement of Outstanding Universal Value).11
Fig. 5 UNESCO sign at Wadi Al-Hitan
(Donnelly, 2015)
The author visited the site in the
Spring of 2015. It is easily accessible
by car from Cairo within about 3.5
hours. The site is overwhelmingly
unique and hauntingly beautiful but
since the Revolution here in 2011 and
the lack of tourists it is apparent that
both maintenance and security had
decreased on the site. The welcome
sign for this UNESCO site was just
lying in the dirt (photo to the left).
These actions threaten the overall
integrity of the site.
The on-site museum was closed and
during the couple of hours it took to
walk around the site there were no
visible security guards, and people
were easily touching and picking up
the fossils. There appeared to be
some areas that had contained fossils
which were now empty.12

9

Sirenians are sea cows – manatees and dugongs (Domning, 2013) which evolved from Old World species.
20,051 ha according to the WHL listing (UNESCO, 2015)
11
A retroactive SOUV for Wadi Al-Hitan was adopted in 2012 (36 COM 8E).
12
It is unsure if they were moved off-site for protection or had been looted.
10

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Notable is that the last State
of Conservation report for
the site was issued in
2010,13
before
the
Revolution
(UNESCO,
2015).
Fig. 6 Basilosaurus
skeleton – Wadi Al-Hitan
(Donnelly, 2015)

Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
Ancient Thebes (which includes Luxor and Qurna) was inscribed to the WHL in 1979 under
criteria (i), (iii) and (vi) as follows:
(i). Thebes, the city of the god Amun, is renowned for its temples whose imposing ruins are
the glory of Karnak at Luxor. These truly colossal complexes which have been enlarged
numerous time comprise some of the most fascinating realizations of Antiquity the "Hypostyle
Hall" of Karnak begun by Seti and completed by Ramses II (measuring 102 meters in width
and 53 meters in depth, covers a surface of 5,000 square meters; its roof is supported by 134
columns, those of the central nave measuring 20,40 meters with a diameter of 3,40 meters);
the temple and the colonnade of Amenophis III at Luxor, one of the most refined masterpieces
of Egyptian architecture (14th century B.C.). The Theban necropolis relinquish nothing in
importance or beauty to these monuments: it suffices to note the tombs of the Valley of the
Kings (1,500 B.C. to 1,000 B.C.) among which is that of Tutunkhamun, the Valley of the
Queens, where, among others, Nephertari, wife of Ramses II, and Tuy, his mother, are
entombed; and finally at Deir-El-Bahari (western Thebes) the funerary temple of the queen
Hatshepsut with its immense porticos, it superimposed terraces flanking the mountain and its
frescoes which trace her voyage to the country of Punt.
(iii). The few examples which remain among these splendid monuments serve to attest to the
antiquity, the unique and unequalled character of these monumental Theban ensembles.
(vi). The monumental and archaeological complex of Thebes with its temples, tombs, and
royal palaces; its villages of artisans and artists; its inscriptions; its innumerable figurative
representations, as valuable from an aesthetic as from a documentary point of view, constitute
the material witness of the aggregate history of the Egyptian civilization from the Middle
Kingdom to the beginning of the Christian era. Moreover, the texts and the paintings are the
source of information concerning the people and cultures of neighbouring countries: Nubia,

13

http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/534

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the country of Punt, Libya, as well as Syria and the Hittite and Aegean civilizations.’ (UNESCO,
2015, Thebes, ICOMOS Mission Report 2008)
The site is massive14 and includes tracts on both the West and East sides of the Nile including
the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and Luxor and Karnak Temples. The number of
tombs and temples in this expanse is innumerable and new archaeological excavations are
still bringing finds to light.15 Ownership of the property is national, regional and private, but if
anything significant was found outside of the inscribed area, the boundaries could relatively
easily be extended.

Fig. 7 Deir el-Bahari (Hatshepsut’s temple) from above (Donnelly, 2015)
The entire area is managed by the Supreme Council of Luxor under the authority of the
Governor. This is the regional office of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (Ministry of State
for Antiquities16) who is the responsible governmental body for the management and
conservation of the property, and the site is protected under Antiquities Protection Law 117/83
(Egyptian Ministry of Culture, 2010).
While reporting from the Egyptian Government on Thebes has been more consistent here17
than at the natural site Wadi Al-Hitan, the latest decision document from the WH Committee
(UNESCO, 2015, WHC-15/39.COM/7B, pg. 85) clearly iterated that it has not received
14
According to UNESCO (2015, Ancient Thebes, Description) the property encompasses some 7,390 ha with a
444 ha buffer zone.
15
Including the potential new discovery of hidden rooms in Tomb KV 62 of King Tutankhamun (The Telegraph,
2015).
16
Previously the Ministry of Culture.
17
State of Conservation reports were filed in 1998, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015
(UNESCO, 2015, Ancient Thebes, Documents)

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sufficient information from Egypt regarding the preparation and adoption of an integrated
management plan and considers this “constitutes a threat to the integrity of the property”. The
Committee went on to request the State Party to invite a Reactive Monitoring mission to the
property to assist in “elaborating the terms of reference for the development of an integrated
management plan.”

Fig. 8 Karnak Temple (Donnelly, 2015)

Conclusion
Analysis of the Canadian tentatively listed Tr’ondëk-Klondike cultural site illustrates the
ongoing process for attaining inscription on the WHL. They have been on the tentative list
since 2004, but only succeeded in gaining tacit approval from the community and local
government to proceed with the nomination in 2010. The documentation for nomination
including the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, and authentication and integrity
definitions is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. In addition to communicating with
the numerous stakeholders involved and attempting to gain acceptance with the United States
of America for the Alaskan portion of the Chilkoot Trail, the project is a daunting one. The
challenging environment and cost and access for reconstruction materials is also a concern
for ensuring the project meets WHC requirements. It is also notable that tourism in winter is
very limited to almost non-existent, save for the annual dog-sled races like the Yukon Quest.
The opportunity to gain inscription would ensure that this important and unique cultural site is
preserved for future generations. While it does not necessarily compare to the grandeur and
antiquity of Ancient Thebes, it does have its own inherent cultural value that demonstrates the
value of diversity in the WHL.

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Notable for the Egyptian sites is that due to the significant loss in tourism since the Revolution
in 2011, it appears that focus on maintaining or progressing plans for some of the sites has
been delayed. It is recommended that a review of many Egyptian sites, especially those that
are not as frequented by tourists, be undertaken by the WHC to ensure that management
plans are being prepared and followed to ensure they are being properly protected. The
responsibility for preservation and protection of the sites listed on the WHL still currently falls
on the State. However, the landmark trial of Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi for the destruction of nine
mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu is currently being undertaken by the International
Criminal Court (Neuendorf, 2015), and may provide further guidance on liability and
responsibility in its outcome.

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Reference List
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Donnelly, D. (2013) Historic CIBC building on Front Street, Dawson City [Photograph] Personal
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Donnelly, D. (2013) Klondike Dredge and Sign – Dawson City, Yukon [Photograph] Personal collection
– taken 7 November 2013.
Donnelly, D. (2013) Modern mine near Dawson City [Photograph] Personal collection – taken 7
November 2013.
Donnelly, D. (2015) Basilosaurus skeleton – Wadi Al-Hitan [Photograph] Personal collection – taken
27 March 2015.
Donnelly, D. (2015) Deir el-Bahari (Hatshepsut’s Temple) from above. [Photograph] Personal
collection – taken 29 May 2015.
Donnelly, D. (2015) Karnak Temple [Photograph] Personal collection – taken 5 June 2015.

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Donnelly, D. (2015) UNESCO sign at Wadi Al-Hitan [Photograph] Personal collection – taken 27
March 2015.
Donnelly, D. (2015) Wadi Al-Hitan [Photograph] Personal collection – taken 27 March 2015.
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