The World Heritage Youth Forum, Cambodia 2013 was held at the site of Angkor, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 8 to 16 June 2013, in conjunction with the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee. The event gathered 36 youth representatives from 16 countries, including 20 from Cambodia.

The World Heritage Youth Forum aimed at raising awareness among young people about the importance of heritage preservation, conservation and promotion; developing their appreciation and respect for cultural diversity; and deepening their understanding of the World Heritage Convention to foster the role they can take in its implementation. The theme of the Youth Forum was “Living Heritage: Temple, Environment, People (TEP)”.

In Siem Reap, the youth delegates shared presentations on World Heritage sites in their countries, while experts from the APSARA National Authority, headed by Mr. KHUON Khun-Neay, provided the theoretical context of conservation and preservation concerns of the World Heritage site of Angkor. They took part in daily workshops, and plenary discussions focused on the forum theme. The participants visited the water infrastructure in Angkor Park to better understand the role of water and forest in the stability of temples, groundwater issues, rehabilitation of Jayatataka (North Baray), the ancient water reservoirs and the Angkorian water system. They also met with the communities of Rohal and North Sras-Srang in Siem Reap, and visited the city.

Together with heritage experts, the Forum participants visited Angkor temples Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon, where they carried out hands-on conservation activities.

The young people also took part in an archaeological training session on how to define the different soil layers of an excavation pit southeast of the site. Using tools provided by the site archaeologist, they cleaned the wall of the pit, tried reading the different textures of soil and the cultural material remaining on the wall, and drew lines on the wall to define the different layers of the stratigraphy. The young delegates also used a hammer and chisel to dress (??) new stone blocks, cutting and shaping them, to replace old stones at the site that had been lost.

On 16 June the Youth forum delegates participated in the opening ceremony of the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee.

In their address at the opening, the young delegates emphasized the importance for youth to understand history and heritage, and recognized their responsibility to conserve not only the physical structures of heritage sites but also their environment and traditions, the intangible dimension, which make heritage properties, “living” sites. The activities of the youth forum were reported through a video presentation.

After the ceremony, they met with UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, UNESCO Assistant General Director for Culture Francesco Bandarin, members of the World Heritage Committee and the World Heritage Committee’s advisory bodies (ICOMOS and IUCN).

The youth delegates unanimously agreed that the objectives of the Youth Forum were successfully achieved and spoke enthusiastically about this memorable experience.

They expressed their heartfelt thanks to the organizers: the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO, APSARA, the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, as well as the Cambodian volunteers and APSARA facilitators. They also thanked the ASEAN Foundation, IESCO, the University of Puthisastra, the Vatannac Bank and the Cambodian Airports for their support to the Youth Forum.

 Videos of the Youth Forum can be viewed here: