The Programme for Safeguarding of Angkor

Angkor, the capital of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 15th centuries, maintains an outstanding position among the world's most magnificent monumental complexes. The archaeological park covers a total area of 401 square kilometres and contains an exceptional number of temples, which were built as monuments to the protective gods.

Angkor shows a certain influence of Indian architecture and some details from Cham and Javanese styles. All these influences were assimilated by the Khmers creating a unique Angkorian style. As the capital cities of the empire were being built around the temples, an elaborate irrigation system consisting of canals, moats and reservoirs was created for both agricultural and religious purposes.

Following the inscription of Angkor into the World Heritage List and the World Heritage List in Danger in 1992, UNESCO provided substantial assistance to Cambodia for the establishment and development of an appropriate national legal and institutional framework for the protection and management of the site. The inscription of Angkor was done in accordance with exceptional procedures and was subject to a certain number of conditions to be met by the Royal Government. As a result, the Cambodian authorities adopted a Royal Decree Establishing Protected Cultural Zones in the Siem Reap/Angkor Region and Guidelines for their Management. It was followed by the creation of an independent body, the Authority for the Protection of the Site and the Management of the Angkor Area (APSARA), in 1995.

Since 1993, UNESCO has also ensured the Standing Secretariat of the International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), co-chaired by France and Japan. The ICC is structured in different ways in accordance with the matters under consideration.

The Plenary Session of the ICC examines general policy matters, determines central priorities and approves new project proposals. It normally holds one meeting per year, at the level of Ambassadors. The Technical Committee of the ICC, meeting also once a year, is responsible for the follow-up of the different projects, activities and research carried out by operators intervening at the site of Angkor.

In addition, since 1997, an Ad Hoc Group of Experts has been operational. The mandate of the group is to examine any technical question submitted by the Plenary Session or the Technical Committee, such as new project proposals, issues of doctrine or matters under the jurisdiction of the Committee that require technical advice. Composed of four experts (one from France, one from Japan, one member from ICOMOS or ICCROM and one from UNESCO), the group of experts is independent. It meets only when requested by the co-chairmen, on an ad hoc basis. Finally, a so-called Quadripartite Meeting is organised periodically between France, Japan, the Royal Government and UNESCO in order to examine technical matters concerned with the functioning of the ICC.

The 8th Plenary Session of the ICC was held in Phnom Penh on 6 July 2001, co-chaired by H.E. Mr. André-Jean Libourel, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France, and H.E. Mr. Gotaro Ogawa, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan. This ICC meeting marked the 10th anniversary of the landmark appeal of His Majesty the King Norodom Sihanouk to UNESCO to co-ordinate the international efforts to preserve and safeguard Angkor. On this occasion, H.E. Mr. Sok An, Senior Minister at the Council of Ministers, launched a new appeal renewing the commitment of the Royal Government and urging the international community and donor partners to redouble the efforts to safeguard Angkor. The main topic of discussion at the meeting was the need to adopt appropriate measures to ensure the balance between the conservation and development of the site.

The 11th session of the Technical Committee took place in Siem Reap on 19 and 20 December 2001, co-chaired by Mr. Jacques Gérard, Counsellor for Co-operation and Culture at the Embassy of France, and Mr. Katsuhiro Shinohara, Minister-Counsellor at the Embassy of Japan. Most of the proposals presented at the meeting dealt with issues relating to the development of the site. In the field of conservation, the Technical Committee examined the various restoration projects underway and considered two new propositions. The first one was presented by the Italian team and consisted in a restoration project on the Angkor Wat moat causeway that was heavily damaged in September 1997. The second proposal, which was submitted by Switzerland, aimed at ensuring the conservation and enhancement of the Banteay Srei temple.

The 9th Plenary Session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC) was on 2-3 July 2002 in Siem Reap, with a total number of participants of 150. It was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. André-Jean Libourel, Ambassador of France, and H.E. Mr. Gotaro Ogawa, Ambassador of Japan. The delegation of the Royal Government was headed by H.E. Mr. Sok An, Senior Minister at the Council of Ministers. The 2002 session was of special significance, as it marked the 10th year anniversary since the inscription of the Angkor Archaeological Site into the World Heritage List. The first day of the session was devoted to a number of presentations by well-known specialists, featuring themes from archaeological research to tourism and community development. The second day was spent on site tours, including the temples of Pre Rup, Ta Som, Chau Sey Tevoda, the Baphuon and Angkor Wat. The participants had the opportunity to see first hand the technical achievements of international teams working in Angkor as well as improvements made to temple approach areas under the aegis of APSARA Authority. The 9th session also featured official statements regarding new conservation programmes to be implemented in Banteay Srei and in Ta Prohm temples by the Swiss and Indian teams respectively.

The 12th Technical Committee of the ICC took place on 12-13 December 2002 presided over by Mr. Dominique Dordain, Counsellor for Co-operation and Culture at the Embassy of France, and Mr. Katsuhiro Shinohara, Minister-Counsellor at the Embassy of Japan. On the first day of the meeting, several site visits were conducted to review the conservation work of the Swiss Team at Banteay Srey temple, and the Indian team's work at Ta Prohm temple. On the second day of the meeting, technical papers were presented. Professor Giorgio Crocci, member of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts, will outline recommendations for the conservation of Angkor. These recommendations are the first step in the creation of a conservation charter for the site. The main decision of this meeting was to recommend the organization of a Second International Conference in Angkor to be held in Paris (France) in November 2003. It was recommended to entrust the co-ordination of the Conference preparation to UNESCO. The Technical Committee also proposed the organization of a workshop on Angkor Vat in order to establish the proper procedure of international interventions under the overall authority of APSARA.

As Standing Secretariat of the ICC, UNESCO, in co-operation with the Japanese Team for Safeguarding Angkor (JSA), has participated since 1996 in annual international symposiums on the preservation of the Bayon Temple. These symposiums constitute the main international forum for scientific and technical exchange on Angkor. The 6th Bayon Symposium was held in Siem Reap on 17 and 18 December 2001. These two days included presentations by international experts and distinguishes scholars, such Professor Croci, Dr. Iwasaki, Dr. Noguchi and Professor Sugiyama. The main recommendation of the participants to the meeting was to continue the implementation of the overall plan following the three facets of the Bayon master plan. This plan envisages investigation, preservation and maintenance programmes in close co-operation with the APSARA Authority. It was also recommended to undertake in-depth studies on various technical issues within the Angkor Thom perimeter, with special attention to the Bayon temple, and to benefit from the example of other major archaeological sites, such as Borobudur in Indonesia or the Nara World Heritage Site.

The 7th Bayon Symposium was held on 9-10 December 2002. A number of presentations were made on the on-going activities at Bayon temple, including research, safeguarding initiatives and experience of the APSARA Authority in the development and cultural enhancement of monuments of monuments and sites. In addition, this symposium provided the opportunity for the presentation of several relevant international case studies, which would be of special use for Cambodia. This included presentations on the Cathedral of Cologne (Germany), the Palace of Alhambra in Granada (Spain), the Joya de Cerén site (El Salvador) and Baalbeck (Lebanon). These presentations were made by a number of distinguished professors and scholars, such as Dr. Hans Leisen, Professor Scick-Wener, Ms. Françoise Descamps and Professor Giorgio Croci. As a conclusion, several recommendations were made concerning research the water system of Angkor, the promotion of ties of co-operation among the teams working at Angkor confronted with various problems in stone conservation or the direct and balanced access to all publics to the Angkor site. The participants to the Symposium also recommended several measures to be taken by the APSARA Authority to ensure the sustainable development of the site, taking into consideration the increasing pressure of urban nature and the upsurge of tourism at Angkor. It was also concluded that the efforts for the development of a master plan for the preservation for the Bayon temple and for the drafting of a “Bayon Charter” should be continued, in conformity with the principles of ethics and practices for the conservation of cultural heritage.

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