Following the organization of the Second Intergovernmental Conference for Angkor (November 2003) and the decision of the World Heritage Committee during its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004), the property was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger, given the improvement in the physical state of the monuments within the site, and the measures adopted by the national authority APSARA to strengthen the management and monitoring methods for the site.
The Paris Declaration and Recommendations adopted by the Second Intergovernmental Conference in 2003 defined the general orientation of activities for the site for the coming ten years, and launched a new decade of international assistance by deciding to focus more particularly on sustainable development, and by dividing the International Coordinating Committee (ICC/ANGKOR) into two parts to address the problems concerning a) safeguarding, conservation and research; b) sustainable development.
The technical session of the International Coordination Committee for Angkor (ICC/Angkor) held in June 2005, attended by UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, examined some very important initiatives, among which were safeguarding, conservation and research projects for several monuments and urban development projects (including the master plan for the sustainable development of Siam Reap) and water and forest management.
Furthermore, new projects for the safeguarding of the Temples of Bayon (Angkor Thom) and Angkor Wat were presented. These projects, implemented by UNESCO in cooperation with the national authority APSARA, will be funded by the Governments of Japan and Italy as of 2006.
At the beginning of 2005, UNESCO learned of the alarming situation affecting the protected areas, particularly Zone 2, linked to ongoing developments not in conformity with existing regulations. At the request of His Excellency Sok An, Vice Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia and President of the national authority APSARA, the Director-General of UNESCO decided to send a legal expert (Mr Lucien Chabasson) in September 2005, to examine the present situation regarding the zones in question and to make appropriate recommendations.
The mission highlighted the following problems:
Among the many factors of pressure being experienced by the Angkor property, the most pressing is very rapid tourism development, with a 43% increase in the number of visitors over two years and the consequent steady increase in the number of buildings to cope with this massive influx of visitors.
Despite this pressure, the overall situation of the protected zones was judged to be satisfactory. Nevertheless, although the existing regulatory conditions for the development of these zones are clear in their principles and with respect to the participation of local populations in maintaining the intrinsic values of the property, they appear to be obsolete or lacking in clarity from the standpoint of concrete modalities with regard to their application.
The ambiguity regarding property rights of the zones concerned and the lack of an accurate cadastral survey makes it difficult to judge the legality of some building requests.
The lack of technical expertise of the APSARA Authority in the areas of urban planning and communication, and of legal competence in matters relating to land was noted.
The following recommendations were made by the legal expert to respond to the problems identified:
a) Update the existing legal tools concerning the statuts of the zones in question, in particular the 1994 Royal Decree, if necessary by preparing sub-decrees to clarify the application modalities of this Decree;
b) Draw up an inventory of the new buildings located in Zones 1 and 2, as well as the establishment of a register of residents in these two zones;
c) Clarify the rules regarding property rights and ownership applicable to Zones 1 and 2;
d) Strengthen the capabilities of the APSARA Authority with regard to urban planning, land-use control and communication with the various players.
These questions, among others, were discussed during the planning session of the ICC/Angkor held on 28 and 29 November 2005, attended by the Director of the World Heritage Centre.
The ICC fully supported the analysis and proposals contained in Mr Chabasson’s report and reiterated the need to adopt an « integrated » and federative approach to all the ongoing initiatives.
Accordingly, in these initiatives the ICC supported the creation of a new tool for the global management for the site of Angkor (management plan) in conformity with the Operational Guidelines. This Plan must provide a general methodological framework for the conservation, restoration and maintenance of the Angkor monuments, which is still today very heterogeneous, as well as improved approval and monitoring procedures for the execution of cooperation projects and the coordination of all parties involved in the daily maintenance of the property.
The ICC/Angkor also recalled, twice, the urgent need for the establishment of a second ad hoc group of experts, specifically with regard to questions relating to sustainable development. This had already been recommended by the Second International Conference in 2003.