ABOUT US  Prefaces of UNESCO Director-General and H.E.Dr. SOK An

Prefaces of UNESCO Director-General and His Excellency Dr Sok An


Angkor is at the heart of an extraordinary human and scientific adventure where the activity to safeguard and develop this outstanding cultural site will remain as a spectacular example of international solidarity.

Following the Tokyo Declaration and the appeal of the late King Father NORODOM Sihanouk, the international Programme for Angkor was implemented twenty years ago and has featured an innovative approach closely associating the safeguarding operations with sustainable development endeavours.

The wealth of Cambodia’s heritage highlights the role played by culture for the identity of the people of this country, for the knowledge of their history and for their ability to control their fate. The affection displayed by Cambodians for these thousand-year old temples have played a decisive role towards the reconciliation and reconstruction of the country.

Concomitantly with the past two decades of activity towards the protection of the site, the region has developed, as have vocational training and job creation. These developments have supported and sometimes sped up the country’s economic and social progress. This strategy reached its pinnacle in 2003 at the Paris Conference on sustainable development with the establishment of a group of experts on this topic.

Angkor has then become a laboratory spurred by the relationships between culture and sustainable development, by then evidencing the potential of sustainable tourism, of handicrafts and the full mobilization of the local communities towards the harmony and construction of a whole society. Other World heritage sites throughout the world have taken inspirations from the experiments carried out in Angkor, and UNESCO, using Angkor


as an example, has been advocating the recognition of culture as a booster for sustainable development.

The International Programme for Angkor is not only unique in its approach but also in its operation, with the establishment of the International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the historic site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) with UNESCO in charge of its standing Secretariat. This gives me theopportunity to acknowledge the countries that backed its establishment (Cambodia, France and Japan) and all associated members which commitment has been a strong symbol of UNESCO’s highly valued moral and intellectual solidarity.

Safeguarding any historic site requires a global approach reaching all aspects of heritage, of built structures, of documentation and of the traditions which bring them to life. Since the inscription of the site on the World Heritage List in 1992, UNESCO has been promoting this broadened vision of heritage at Angkor, based on the preservation and the improvement of the site while respecting its environment and promoting local communitysupported development.

UNESCO sees to the international community’s activities for the development of our common heritage and will unrelentingly
continue to mobilise for the protection and promotion of this universal and outstanding site. This scientific publication commemorates an anniversary and we would like by then to pay tribute to all of those who have spearheaded this project and whose determination
still inspires us.

The sustainable protection of Angkor is the collective task and individualduty of all Cambodians. This is the meaning of the silhouette of Angkor Wat on our national flag (beyond the reference to the identity and the demonstration of our national pride).

It also explains the constant solicitude that the prestigious site has been enjoying from the highest bodies of the State for the past two decades. The late King-Father, NORODOM Sihanouk, took, as early as in 1991, the initiative to propose the nomination of Angkor on the UNESCO World Heritage List. His successor, His Majesty NORODOM Sihamoni deigned, the day after his enthronement, to become the Honorary President of the International Co-ordinating Committee (ICC) for Angkor and is regularly briefed on the site works.

The Royal Government, spearheaded by His Excellency the Prime Minister, Samdech Techo Hun Sen, has unwaveringly supported the conservation and sustainable development programmes in Angkor and its region, with a priority on Siem Reap.

As for the international community, a partner of the APSARA National Authority (managing the World Heritage site), it has continued to fully commit in the field and the developed projects have reached, as of today, the impressive number of 58 plus, concerning 15 countries. And this is far from being over. In Angkor the heritage is complex and to manage it brings together multiple approaches, techniques, state-of-the-art technologies and broad and varied skills.

The area of the inscribed site is huge: 401Km2 (approximately
40,000ha). Flagship of the aforementioned List, this site is unique in its complexity: Simultaneously an archaeological site, a complex of historic monuments, a forest, a cultural landscape, an

ancient hydraulic system, a genuine landscape of living and rural activities, it is rich with intangible heritage and is a globalised tourism destination.

The task is, however, complicated by the dual pressure exercised on the integrity of the Angkor site:

a. One is endogenous, with the local population reaching more
than 100,000 across 112 villages and hamlets scattered all over the site. These inhabitants continuously try to extend their living space, which may threaten the archaeological site.

b. The other is exogenous and is related to the neighbouring city of Siem Reap, the provincial seat, where tourists sojourn and which creeping urban sprawl may extend towards the demarcated areas of the eco-historical site.

We are aware of the challenges and so is the ICC co-chairmanship, valiantly carried out by France and Japan. In the well-augured forthcoming decade, all of us will ensure that the global situation of the protected zones remains satisfying, whilst according the necessary importance to tourism development pressure and guaranteeing at its best the sustainable management of the site. We do not forget that the key values that gained the inscription of Angkor on the World Heritage List are mainly based on the authenticity of the monuments and the integrity of the site.

Our common endeavour aims at preserving this authenticity and safeguarding this integrity.