UNESCO Kabul Attends the ICOMOS Scientific Symposium in Florence, Italy 11th - 14th November 2014.

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© UNESCO

Organized by ICOMOS under the auspices of UNESCO, the Scientific Symposium under the theme of "Heritage and Landscape as Human Values" on the occasion of the 18th ICOMOS General Assembly, took place in Florence from 11th to 14th November 2014. The international symposium brought together some 1000 participants including heritage practitioners, academics and international heritage experts from around the world, including staff members from ICOMOS, ICCROM and UNESCO.

The symposium was divided into five themes:

Theme 1: Sharing and experiencing the identity of communities through tourism and interpretation

Theme 2: Landscape as cultural habitat

Theme 3: Sustainability through traditional knowledge

Theme 4: Community-driven conservation and local empowerment

Theme 5: Emerging tools for conservation practice

Masanori Nagaoka, Head of the Culture unit of UNESCO Office in Kabul joined the session for theme 4 which was jointly-chaired by Luigi Fusco Girard (Italy) and Tara Sharma (India).

Theme 4 focused on the following topic: Engaging and empowering communities to identify local values and participate fully in the conservation of their historic centers and heritage resources is a widely shared goal. How can it be achieved most effectively?

Nagaoka gave a presentation of community empowerment dealing with culture focusing on the comparative case analysis of both World Heritage sites of Borobudur in Indonesia and Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

In his presentation, Nagaoka outlined how the heritage discourse in Indonesia has reached its current status of producing an exclusive national legislative policy and framework: a shift of heritage management from an authority-driven, monument-centric approach to a community-based approach for wider landscape preservation. Nagaoka clarified his theory through a detailed study concerning the progression of the management of the Borobudur Temple and its surrounding areas, its eventual nomination on the World Heritage List and the current consolidated national legal system in cultural heritage management.

Nagaoka argued that Indonesian heritage discourse has now moved away from both European monument-centric conservation approach which were strongly influenced by the Netherlands and the JICA Master Plan, initiated by the Japanese conservation practitioners. Commencing in the early 2000’s, the Indonesia authorities re-defined heritage policies and strategies and developed a new law in 2010 concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property. This law emphasised the necessity of a community-based approach for wider landscape preservation, whilst trying to improve quality of life of the community. The 2003 Indonesian Charter for Heritage Conservation highlights the importance of community engagement, cultural diversity and sustainable heritage tourism that should encourage a holistic approach to culture in development in Indonesia. In conclusion, the presentation attempted to clarify the factors and elements which affected the change of country’s policy in heritage management discourse in Indonesia.

Nagaoka also argued the case using the example of potential development and tourism growth in the context of Bamiyan, World Heritage Property in Afghanistan. He went on to address the issue of the emergency safeguarding of the cultural landscapes and historical monuments in Bamiyan and how tourism may potentially develop in the future in light of possible positive interventions at Bamiyan. Nagaoka advocated for a discussion on the nature of tourism in Bamiyan, both perceived and real, and to understand how best this might be encouraged without unduly affecting the integrity of the World Heritage Property and its environs, whilst also contributing to the socio-economic development for the community.

It was of central importance to the symposium that international community, heritage practitioners, academics and international heritage experts highlighted the importance and significance of the role of ‘Culture’ and the preservation of ‘Cultural Landscapes’ within community involvement. This is a key in the development process, especially in conflict or post-conflict countries. With specific reference to Afghanistan, Nagaoka outlined that that the effective and appropriate synthesis of cultural heritage programmes into an overarching development framework can positively contribute to the intricate process of peace keeping, nation building and both local and regional economic development.

The symposium participants unanimously agreed that the future of our cultural heritage can be ensured only through the active involvement of communities whilst heritage constitutes a vital ingredient of sustainable local development. The community’s role in the process of heritage identification and management is anchored in the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which called for "a general policy aiming to give the cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes".

Overall, the symposium was very successful as demonstrated by the remarks of the facilitators and the feedback of participants. At the end of the symposium, the Florence Declaration was announced to develop mechanisms of heritage management involving community members for settings international standards on heritage discourse. See Florence Declaration at florence2014.icomos.org/en/symposium/florence_declaration

During the 18th ICOMOS General Assembly, photo panels featuring Afghan cultural heritage sites were exhibited at the venue of the ICOMOS Scientific Symposium exhibition. The panel illustrates the concrete results of a tripartite partnership between the governments of Afghanistan and Italy as well as UNESCO, with a view to preserving Afghan’s rich cultural heritage and promoting mutual respect between diverse communities.