Is Unesco status a blessing or a burden? New paper discusses Southeast Asian examples

From the Cambodia Daily and the Journal of Cultural Heritage:

The global recognition given to the Angkor temple complex in Siem Reap—and other sites around the world that receive U.N. world heritage status—does as much to damage as it does to preserve the historical gem, according to a new research paper.

The paper, published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage and made available online last week, outlines how recognition from Unesco is used as a tourism marketing tool, resulting in more visitor traffic to cultural sites, which threatens their short- and long-term sustainability.

Source: World Heritage Status, Tourists Threaten Angkor Preservation – The Cambodia Daily

See the journal article here: Is UNESCO World Heritage recognition a blessing or burden? Evidence from developing Asian countries

To both acknowledge and protect many cultural heritage expressions, sites and practices, UNESCO has instituted three conventions; Tangible Heritage, Intangible Heritage and Diversity of Cultural Expression. If a site/practice receives this UNESCO badge, it is an acknowledgment of its universal cultural and/or natural value as well as recognition of the need to protect it from harm. However, the UNESCO badge is an important marketing tool in world tourism and its presence ensures many more visitors to a site/practice that is UNESCO recognised. With increasing wealth and mobility, many more people are travelling than was possible even a decade ago. Increasing numbers of visitors can negatively impact on a site/practice as well as affect the local culture and integrity of a region, particularly in developing countries. So, is the UNESCO recognition a blessing or burden? This paper addresses the challenges that ensue from the UNESCO conventions by considering three UNESCO World Heritage case study sites in Asian developing countries. In particular, it seeks to understand the extent to which UNESCO’s World Heritage approach protects or further undermines the cultural heritage sustainability of these sites.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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