Safeguarding and Development of Angkor: Stock taking and new Plan of ActionThe Second Intergovernmental Conference for the Safeguarding and Sustainable Development of Angkor and its Region will be held in Paris (at the Kléber International Conference Centre) on November 14 and 15. Organized jointly by France and Japan with UNESCO, it will mark the 10th anniversary of the Tokyo Declaration, which launched a decade of international activity to preserve this exceptional site, and also discuss and adopt a broad action strategy for the decade ahead.
The Tokyo Declaration was adopted on October 13, 1993 at the end of the first intergovernmental conference on safeguarding and developing Angkor, which was held in Japan. It set up an International Coordination Committee (ICC) to ensure the standard of work at the site (which was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and List of World Heritage in Danger in 1992) and encourage and coordinate international aid, which totalled more than $50 million over the decade. The CIC, whose permanent secretariat has been entrusted to UNESCO, is jointly chaired by France and Japan. It has coordinated more than 100 projects over 10 years with the help of 30 or so international organisations, universities, private businesses and NGOs.
This operation, which also involves the Cambodian Authority for the Protection of the Site and Development of the Angkor Region (APSARA), set up in February 1995, has included safeguarding 15 major monuments, clearing landmines from the site, combating looting (a special heritage protection police force was created), and conducting research projects and training at all levels. “This original mechanism [the ICC] has proved its worth and UNESCO has proposed adopting this structure for other countries recovering from wars. ICCs have been established for Afghanistan and for Iraq”, said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.
While the Tokyo Conference and the subsequent decade focused on emergency preservation - as Cambodia, and the site of Angkor, were emerging from 20 years of civil war and conflict - the conference this week in Paris will focus on sustainable development: ensuring economic growth, essential to combat poverty, in ways that are mindful of the site’s integrity and of the rights of the tens of thousands of people living in the area. Forty projects focusing on three major areas will be considered: tourist development and management of the archaeological site of Angkor; organizing and managing the development of the town and province of Siem Reap; developing the Gates of Angkor neighbourhood, between Siem Reap and Angkor.
An extensive international campaign is still needed to preserve the huge site of Angkor, which numbers about 40 major monuments and hundreds of archaeological sites, over 40,000 hectares, and incorporate it into Cambodia’s national development policy. This week’s conference is expected to adopt a Paris Declaration and an action plan continuing along the path set out by the Tokyo Declaration.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, as well as Sok An, Senior Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and a senior representative of the Japanese foreign ministry will speak at the opening of the conference which will begin at 10 a.m. A message from the Director-General of UNESCO, who will be away from Paris, will be screened on this occasion. The closing session of the conference will take place on November 15 at 4.30 p.m.