02.12.2013 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Protect cultural heritage beyond monuments. Symposium on Kathmandu’s living heritage concludes

© UNESCO -Participants of the symposium discussing on the 'Kathmandu statement'

We must define, protect and sustain our cultural heritage beyond monuments. This is the main message of the more than 140 participants from twenty two countries, who met in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal from 25 to 29 November 2013 for the international symposium ‘Revisiting Kathmandu: Safeguarding Living Urban Heritage’.

The event was organized by the Nepal Chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu in close association with the Department of Archaeology of Nepal. In a bid to underscore the extraordinary richness of the heritage of the Kathmandu Valley, the sessions on the four intertwined themes of the symposium, namely authenticity, community involvement, management of heritage and disaster risk management, took place at Patan, Hanuman Dhoka, Pashupati and Bhaktapur, four of the seven monument zones of the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage property.

“The outcomes of the symposium are excellent. They help maintain the delicate balance between conserving what represents the intrinsic character and value of the historic city, while, at the same time, allowing for the change that is required for the city to continue to live” says Axel Plathe, UNESCO Representative to Nepal.

“We have been expanding the definition of cultural heritage beyond the monumental and tangible, however we have not managed to keep up with developing the required conservation tools”, says Kai Weise, President of the ICOMOS Nepal.

In their final statement, the experts underscored the fundamental role of cultural heritage in sustainable development of societies and improving quality of life. They also said that there is an urgent need to establish active and dynamic management systems to protect, sustain and promote living heritage particularly within rapidly urbanizing contexts.  The living heritage has a central role in the overall development of urban areas of Nepal including its economic, social and cultural aspects, they added. 

The symposium made a number of concrete recommendations for sustaining the living urban heritage of Kathmandu. 

In particular, the participants stressed that the authenticity of the heritage in the Valley lies beyond the historicity of material fabric. It encompasses the traditional customs and practices that make up the essence of its living urban heritage. Detailed inventories are needed for establishing the values, shared understanding and conservation processes for effective management of the Valley’s heritage. 

The presence of the secretaries of the three key ministries, namely Sushil Ghimire from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Kishore Thapa from the Ministry of Urban Development, and Shanta Bahadur Shrestha the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, was an excellent indication for their will to strengthen inter-disciplinary collaboration, they said. This interdisciplinarity is essential to efficiently address issues of living urban heritage and to ensure effective systems for assessing and mitigating proposals for change supported by monitoring and enforcement systems.

The experts also stressed the importance of supporting and promoting traditional craftsmanship, craftspeople and practices and said that training programmes to ensure continuation (transmission) over generations must be put in place. They added that the traditional system of Guthi in managing living urban heritage should be revived. 

They recognized that, at times of post disaster recovery, many temples and other heritage structures of the Valley were reconstructed according to traditional knowledge and design using traditional craft techniques often based on oral traditions passed down over generations.  This practice must be continued.  At the same time, prevention and mitigation measures must be developed and implemented to reduce risks to heritage from natural and human induced threats, they stressed. 

The final statement of the symposium will shortly be published.


Kathmandu, 2 December 2013

Press release UNESCO/KAT 19/2013

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 [s1]Delete? or add Durbar Square also in Hanumandhoka and Bhaktapur 

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