In recognition of the national and global significance of the Angkor monuments and associated archaeological features as representations of the great Khmer civilization, the Supreme National Council of Cambodia ratified the 1972 World Heritage Convention in November 1991.
The World Heritage Committee at its 16th session in Santa Fe adopted by Decision of 14 December 1992 to inscribe Angkor on the World Heritage List and on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
However, the Committee placed a number of conditions which it requested the Cambodian authorities to fulfill as soon as possible, including:
(i) to enact adequate protective legislation;
(ii) to establish a national protection agency;
(iii) to establish permanent boundaries;
(iv) to establish meaningful buffer zones, both based on the ZEMP project; and
(v) to establish monitoring and co-ordination of the international conservation effort.
With the legal assistance of UNESCO, a new and comprehensive legislation has been drafted. It was debated extensively by the Supreme National Council of Cambodia during its January 1993 meeting before its adoption by the SNC on 10 February 1993 as the "Decision on the Protection of the National Cultural Heritage". This SNC Decision is expected to be promulgated as law by the legislative body to be established by the new government.
In response to condition (ii) and in collaboration with the UNTAC Civil Administration, a supra-ministerial agency, named "the National Heritage Protection Authority of Cambodia" (NHPAC) was formally adopted by Decision of the SNC on the 10 February 1993.
To comply with conditions (iii) and (iv), UNESCO has executed a "Zoning and Environment Plan" (ZEMP) for the Angkor Area with funds from UNDP and Sweden and with technical assistance from the United States National Parks Services, the Angkor Foundation of Hungary, the Thai Department of Fine Arts, the Ecole Française d'Extrême Orient and the World Conservation Union.
Some 25 experts of various scientific disciplines from 11 different countries, together with Cambodian technical counterparts, participated in this project undertaking extensive studies of environmental and socio-economic conditions, as well as collection of the archaeological data within a 5,000 sq km study area centred on the Angkor core monumental grounds. The spatial data was compiled into a computerized Geographical Information System (GIS) and has been set up within the Angkor Conservation Office in Siem Reap to be made available to all participants in the restoration and conservation effort and is expected to be continuously up-dated by future field surveys. From this data, it has been possible to define an "Angkor Cultural Area". Within this boundary two large protected areas were identified. One, tentatively called the "Angkor Archaeological Park" is centred on the core monumental area. The other, called the "Phnom Kulen Park" comprises the environmentally important Kulen Mountain together with more than 100 important monuments from the earliest period of the Khmer Empire. In addition, within the Angkor Cultural Area, smaller satellite parks have been defined around the monumental complexes of Banteay Srei and Phnom Krom.
Also defined are more than 500 "Special Areas of Archaeological Concerns" (SAACs) outside of the boundaries of the parks, many of which have been discovered by the ZEMP project. "Ecologically Sensitives Zones", localizing areas requiring special protection to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources were also defined.
The ZEMP project team, therefore, recommends the establishment of an Angkor Parks Agency which would be a strong and multi- disciplinary government agency dedicated to the protection and management of the World Heritage Angkor Park and potentially other national parks in the region. Recommendations for the establishment of other government entities, such as a regional development board for the co-ordination of social and physical infrastructural development activities, have also been made by the ZEMP team.
The draft Plan with the proposed zones, guidelines and options of organization and management structures was submitted to the new Cambodian Government for its consideration and eventual adoption.
At the general level, the Director-General of UNESCO has created a special Angkor Unit within the Culture Sector and reinforced the UNESCO Office for Cambodia in Phnom Penh and its sub-office in Siem Reap.
At the field level, there is a monthly field Directors Steering Committee meeting held on the site, co-chaired by UNESCO and the Cambodian Director of the Angkor Conservation Office. In April 1993, UNESCO convoked, in Siem Reap, a consultative meeting of international experts involved in the safeguarding and development of the Angkor region which, it is hoped, could be repeated annually.
To ensure closer co-operation between the organizations involved in field-based activities at Angkor and the national authorities, UNESCO's sub-office in Siem Reap, located within the Angkor Conservation Office, was strengthened by additional national staff and is soon expected to be further reinforced by international technical experts.
The key to ensuring the success of these co-ordinating mechanisms is the training to upgrade the management capacity of the Cambodian administrators of the site of Angkor. This need is being addressed by an important project funded by the Government of Japan to upgrade the quality of instruction within the Faculty of Archaeology of the University of Fine Arts of Phnom Penh. An extension of the ZEMP project also focuses on the training of site-managers for the administration of the Angkor Park.
The Intergovernmental Conference on the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor, organised at the initiative of the Governments of France and Japan, was held in Tokyo from 12-13 October 1993, gathering 29 governments, 7 international organisations, financial institutions and several non-governmental organisations. UNESCO was closely associated with the preparation of this Conference and assured its Secretariat.
The Conference, emphasising the inseparable relationship between the preservation of Angkor's cultural assets, the conservation of its natural resources and the socio-economic development of the region, adopted the "Tokyo Declaration" which created an intergovernmental committee to be established in Phnom Penh at the ambassadorial level to coordinate all activities at Angkor, both bilateral and multilateral, whether they be in the domain of cultural heritage preservation or socio-economic development. UNESCO will be the Secretariat to this Committee to be chaired by France and Japan under the hoped for Honorary Presidency of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.
Angkor by all participating Governments and organisations and in financial pledges of some US$ 15 million to be disbursed over the next two years.