Returning from the second Inter-Governmental Conference on Angkor held in Paris, the Cambodian delegation said there is increasing international support for the preservation of Angkor temples and sustainable development in Siem Reap province.
The conference was the second high-level meeting since a 1993 conference in Tokyo, which led to the creation of the International Coordinating Committee for the preservation of Angkor.
Attended by 35 countries and 12 international and UN organizations, the conference, held on Nov 14 and Nov 15, recommended that development projects for Angkor be discussed “in all their aspects, particularly economic, social and environmental.” They are now part of the ICC’s mandate.
Princess Bopha Devi, minister of Culture and Fine Arts, said Friday that participants in Paris were fully aware of the problems Cambodia faces as it tackles the twin peaks of developing a tourism sector and protecting the historical Angkor temples.
Sustainable development and fighting poverty will mean cooperation between the Apsara Authority, which administers the Angkor area, and Siem Reap provincial authorities and the private sector, participants noted in their recommendations.
To date, the ICC’s jurisdiction has been limited to the 401-square-km Angkor park which is on the World Heritage list and where international rules of conservation and preservation apply.
Before the conference, Bun Narith, Apsara Authority chairman, said that matters affecting Angkor are linked to the surrounding environment, such as urban development in Siem Reap province, water resource management and the cleanup of Siem Reap River, which runs through Siem Reap town.
Dominique Dordain, adviser on cultural cooperation and activities for the French Embassy, who attended the Paris conference, said the ICC is now being used as a model for site rescue in other countries, including Afghanistan.
In 1993, 29 countries and the European Community attended the Tokyo conference.
Among the new participants at the Paris conference were Egypt, Greece and Mexico—countries that will have a great deal to share with Cambodia on the management of historical sites, said Tamara Teneishvili of the World Heritage Unit at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The number of international organizations attending the meeting increased from six in Tokyo to 12 in Paris; including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Tourism Organization, in addition to the Asian Development Bank and the UN Development Program, which attended in 1993.
Interest shown by international organizations clearly demonstrated that the emphasis in Paris was on Angkor and its links to Cambodia’s development, said Teneishvili.
As participants discussed resources required for economic growth and infrastructure in the Siem Reap area, Robert Hagemann, the IMF representative in Cambodia, struck a note of caution.
The government should take the whole country into consideration and investment in Siem Reap should be evaluated in terms of how it will help reduce poverty nationwide, Hagemann said Friday. “I insisted [at the Paris conference] on the need to remember macroeconomics, and to remember priorities,” he said.