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3.2 International Charters and Guidelines

3.2.1 UNESCO

Since the 1960s, the international organization of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been in the forefront in developing globally recognized conventions, recommendations and declarations for cultural heritage protection. These include the Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of Cultural Property Endangered by Public or Private Works 1968, the Recommendation Concerning the Safeguarding and Contemporary Role of Historic Areas 1976 and so


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forth. The International Charter for Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, otherwise known as the Venice Charter 1964 is however claimed to be the most significant guideline which regarded as a catalyst for development and establishment of other suitable conservation documents around the world (Ahmad Sarji, 2005b).

In 1972, at the seventeenth session of the General Conference in Paris, UNESCO adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage known as the World Heritage Convention 1972. The preamble to the Convention considered that „…the existing international conventions, recommendations and resolutions concerning cultural and natural property demonstrate the importance, for all the peoples of the world, of safeguarding this unique and irreplaceable property, to whatever people it may belong‟ (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2005). The parallel recommendation adopted with the 1972 Convention is the Recommendation Concerning the Protection at National Level of the Cultural and Natural Heritage.

While recognizing the achievement of the private sector and public-private initiatives in conserving cultural heritage throughout Asia and the Pacific, the Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation established by UNESCO in 2000 also act as a catalysts for local preservation activity. To date, Malaysia has been honoured with three awards particularly the Awards of Excellence for Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur and the Awards of Distinction for Suffolk House in Penang, both in 2008 and the Awards of Merit for Han Jiang Ancestral Temple in 2006 (UNESCO Bangkok, 2011).

The two internationally recognized instruments developed by the UNESCO, particularly the 1964 Venice Charter and the 1972 World Heritage Convention are deemed to be most relevant in providing an international context for the protection of built heritage in Malaysia.


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a) The Venice Charter 1964

The 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, better known as Venice Charter represented a revision of the 1931 Athens Charter. The Venice Charter compared to the latter restricts the use of modern techniques whereas traditional practices are recommended. It also stresses the importance of setting, respect for original fabric, precise documentation of any intervention, the significance of contributions from all periods to the building‟s character, and the maintenance of historic buildings for a socially useful purpose.

Furthermore, the Charter states that the principles guiding the preservation and restoration of ancient buildings should be agreed and be laid down on an international basis, with each country being responsible for applying the plan within the framework of its own culture and traditions.

Drafted at the Second International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments in Venice in 1964, the Charter was a major step towards better conservation of traditional buildings and places. Based on the concept of authenticity and the importance of maintaining the historical and physical context of a site or building, the Charter has sets forth five principles of conservation as followed:

 The concept of historic buildings (Article 1-3): the concept embraces not only monuments but also individual buildings and groups of buildings

 Conservation (Article 4-8): maintaining the use of a building secure its conservation but no change of lay-out, decoration or surroundings should be permitted unless it is the sole means of ensuring their security and preservation

 Restoration (Article 9-13): restoration will be undertaken only when necessary and where original components are replaced they should be integrated harmoniously but be distinguishable


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 Archaeology (Article 15): excavations should be carried out in accordance with standards, in that it would not alter the meanings but to enhance understanding

 Publication (Article 16): any works taken should be documented, made publicly available and preferably published

The Venice Charter was adopted as the principal doctrinal document of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) when it was founded the following year, 1965 and continues to be cited as the baseline document for international conservation philosophy and practice today. For instances, the Australia Burra Charter, the Florence Charter on Historic Gardens (1982), the Washington Charter on the Conservation of Historic Towns and Areas (1987) and others. As Ahmad Sarji (2005b) commented, the Charter has become „… the most influential international conservation document and

…has been used as a reference point for development of a number of other conservation documents around the world‟.

b) 1972 World Heritage Convention

Adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972, the World Heritage Convention (WHC) has proven to be a unique and most widely accepted instrument of international co-operation in the protection of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value. This was reflected in the increase number of the State Parties adhered to the Convention, reaching one hundred and ninety one countries by year 2014. Article 4 of the Convention outlines the duty of each State Party in the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory to future generations. They thereby “…will do all it can to this end, to the utmost of its own resources and, where appropriate, with any international assistance and co-operation, in particular, financial, artistic, scientific and


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technical, which it may be able to obtain” (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2005, article 4).

The World Heritage Convention (2012) asserts that the overarching benefit of signing the Convention is that of belonging to an international community of appreciation and concern for universally significant properties that embody a world of outstanding examples of cultural diversity and natural wealth. In most instances, the State Parties also can benefit from:

 International assistance and cooperation in their efforts to protect and cherish the world‟s cultural and natural heritage

 Having sites inscribed on the World Heritage List which in turn serves as a catalyst to raising awareness of the site and of its outstanding values, thus also bring important funds to the site and to the local economy through the sustainable tourism activities at the site

 Financial assistance of the World Heritage Fund

 Emergency assistance for urgent action to repair damage caused by human-made or natural disasters

 Elaboration and implementation of a comprehensive management plan that sets out adequate preservation measures and monitoring mechanisms for it listed properties

Source: World Heritage Convention, 2012 By signing the Convention in August 1974, Australia became one of the first of more than one hundred and forty countries committed to the protection of world heritage properties. Malaysia has also ratified the Convention on 7 December 1988 and at the moment of writing, four properties have been listed in the UNESCO‟s World Heritage List of which two are classified in natural category; Gunung Mulu National Park, and


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Kinabalu Park and the other two in cultural category; historic inner-city area of Malacca and George Town, Penang, and more recently, on 30 June 2012, Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley was added to the List (World Heritage Convention, 2012). Places inscribed on the World Heritage List are considered as having outstanding universal value (OUV) in terms of the ten precise criteria given in the Operational Guidelines together with the values as perceived by the local community. Even though the later often disregarded or downplayed in the justification of OUV (Jokilehto, 2011b), the role of local communities in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention has been increasingly addressed in recent days by the convention itself.

While focus primarily on maintaining the heritage value of World Heritage properties, the issue of sustainable development also has acquired increasing importance in the policies and processes of the Convention. Although none of the Convention‟s text adopted in 1972 mentions the term sustainable development, it does carry the spirit and promise of sustainability in its contribution in building mutual understanding, dialogue and solidarity among States and communities, which are the preconditions for sustainable development.

The World Heritage Convention is principally administered by the World Heritage Committee, whose responsibility is to establish, keep up to date and publish, under the title of „World Heritage List‟, a list of properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage that are deemed to be outstanding universal value (UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2005, article 11).The Committee is assisted by a small Secretariat, the World Heritage Centre appointed by the Director-General of the UNESCO and also by the three Advisory Bodies; International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN),


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where the nominations to the World Heritage List are first presented before final inscription by the Committee.

Apart from having the outstanding universal value, a property must also meet the conditions of integrity and/ or authenticity and must have an adequate protection and management system to ensure its safeguarding (UNESCO World Heritage Convention, 2012). As of 2014, the World Heritage List comprised a total of 1007 sites, of which 779 were classified as cultural, 197 as natural and 31 in mixed category.

The Convention noted that both cultural and natural heritage are increasingly threatened with destruction not only by the traditional causes of decay, but also by changing social and economic conditions which aggravate the situation with even more formidable phenomena of damage or destruction. State Parties are therefore encouraged to strengthen the appreciation and enhance the protection of the World Heritage properties through educational and information programmes. As argued by English Heritage (2008), it is the key to sustaining the historic environment.

Further to this, Article 5 of the Convention also commits State Parties to adopt a general policy which aims to give cultural and natural heritage a function in the life of the community and to integrate the protection of that heritage into comprehensive planning programmes. This commitment is reinforced by the Recommendation Concerning the Protection at National Level of the Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted in parallel with the Convention.