World Heritage Workshop held in Yap
A very productive regional workshop was held from April 7th through the 11th in Yap State on the development of a management plan for UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Yap State and the Republic of Palau are working hard to produce a successful nomination for Yap's famous stone money banks and dancing grounds and its historic connections to the Republic of Palau's quarry sites where the stone money was carved out and transported by canoe's across the hundreds of miles between the islands. One of the qualifications of UNESCO's prestigious World Heritage list is that the sites selected have what is known as “Outstanding Universal Value”. According to experts, the transnational serial site between Yap State and the Republic of Palau exhibits Outstanding Universal Value due to its significance as an ideal example of exchange networks among Pacific Island cultures as well as the remarkable efforts to quarry and transport huge stone monolithic discs (some weighing tons of pounds) across such a large and dangerous oceanic route using traditional tools and voyaging technologies. One of the most valuable elements of recognizing the serial site is also the awareness that the traditional exchange systems involving stone money in Yap are still very much a part of Yapese culture and identity today—as are so many other long-standing customs and traditions observed throughout the island.
With the support of UNESCO/Australian Funds-in-Trust, the workshop brought together Yapese experts and international experts including the Pacific Heritage Hub (PHH) at the University of the South Pacific (USP), World Heritage Institute of Training and Research (WHITRAP), ICOMOS Pacifika, the U.S. National Park Service and others, who have been involved with World Heritage Site nominations. The workshop was very fortunate to have Dr Anita Smith from Australia who facilitated the daily meetings. Dr Smith is the foremost expert on heritage preservation and UNESCO's World Heritage Program in the Pacific. Other outside experts included: Dr Christophe Sand from New Caledonia—a highly respected leading archeologist for the region and President of ICOMOS Pacifika who recently conducted work on some of Yap's sites in order to help with the nomination; Dr. Scott Fitzpatrick from the University of Oregon—an archeologist who was the principle researcher and writer for the first nomination and has worked extensively at Palau's quarry sites; Dr Kanefusa Masuda—an expert on traditional architecture, preservation, and risk management; Dr Ron van Oers, Vice Director of WHITRAP; and Ms. Temelesi Waqainabete from PHH.
Along with these technical experts, other important stakeholders included: Mr Pius Hadley—Director of Land and Natural Resources in Pohnpei; Mr Augustine Kohler—Acting Director of National Archive and Cultural Heritage; Ms. Sunny Ngirmang—the Republic of Palau's Director of the Bureau of Arts and Culture; Mr. Calvin Emesiochel—Deputy Historic Preservation Officer for Palau; and Ms. Remurang Rengulbai—Palau's HPO Coordinator. The representatives from the Republic of Palau have been instrumental in collaborating with Yap State on the trans-boundary nomination and have also worked on the Republic's successful Rock Island's World Heritage listing. Directors Hadley and Kohler from Pohnpei brought with them their experiences on working with the World Heritage serial nomination of Kosrae and Pohnpei's famous Lelu and Nan Madol sites.
The purpose of the workshop was to work specifically on World Heritage site management plans. These management plans are required for nominations and include a vast amount of information about how the communities and government plan to protect and manage the sites. Risks to sites can come from neglect, too many people visiting, natural disasters, and many other things that can harm the integrity of the site's structures and surroundings. All possible risks to the sites were considered, as well as strategies to help mitigate these risks. And along with risk management, discussions also took place on how to think about developing a sustainable tourism model specifically for World Heritage sites like the ones proposed. The particular site that Yap is currently planning to represent stone money banks and be placed on the World Heritage List with Palau's rock quarries is the Mangyol site in Makiy Village, Gagil.
A very important element of the workshop was planning for the coordination between stakeholders so that there will be no question of roles and responsibilities in the site's management or any issues and complications with such important matters of land ownership and traditional protocols. It was therefore crucial that numerous local stakeholders participated in the workshop as well. Those joining the representatives from the Republic of Palau included Yap State Government officials, traditional leaders (including representatives from both Chiefly Councils), tourism representatives, stakeholders associated with the site, stakeholders from other villages that cater to tourism (who can participate and learn more about managing their resources), and many others.
Held in the large conference room of the Small Business Development Center in Colonia, each day of the week long workshop was at capacity (60 people) with lively debate and discussions on management plan development and World Heritage matters. The workshop was indeed a valuable step toward finally being successfully nominated on UNESCO's prestigious list. First nominated a few years ago, UNESCO deferred the nomination so that it could be improved upon for a more successful application that is now underway. Being on this list will not only give access to numerous avenues of conservation and management assistance with the sites, but will also help to promote Yap State and the Republic of Palau's cultures to the world, thus enhancing the ability to attract needed tourist revenues in the future. But most importantly, the process of preparing and planning for UNESCO's opportunity has been a wonderful way to bring everyone together with the common goal of preserving, protecting and managing Yap's unique and special cultural heritage as well as its ancient ties with the Republic of Palau.
By Stefan Krause, Yap Historic Preservation Office
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