Sunday, September 30, 2012

Greater efforts sought in making Brunei's national attractions UNESCO World Heritage sites

By Siti Hajar

With the ambitioned focus in getting the Abode of Peace recognised as an important piece of international history, international expert from the United Kingdom yesterday highlighted that one key aspect stakeholders must take into consideration is the management of the country's most major sites.

As the Sultanate plans to secure key local and national features including the iconic Kampong Ayer, Tasek Merimbun Recreational Park, Bubungan Dua Belas and so on as part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, visiting Emeritus Professor Victor T King from University of Leeds stressed that those involved should "have some sort of management arrangement in place to ensure that the site is not going to be undermined in any way" especially for areas that involve residents such as those who currently identify the Water Village as their home.

"One of the major issues would be where you draw the boundaries around it, what to include, what to exclude and whether you decide to have some sort of core area and then a buffer of some sort around it where development could take place," he said following his delivery of a lecture that took place at the ILIA building on UBD's campus.

By having in place what would be considered as constraints for such inhabitants, the preservation of its authenticity and its legacy will contribute to the "appropriate" maintenance of the area.

Considering the prominence of a UNESCO World Heritage site title, the requirements to be included within the list are equally demanding and the international body pays special attention to the ways in which nominated sites are looked after especially if the development of a certain area becomes a possibility, which could potentially "spoil the site in some way", he explained.

With the signing of the 1972 World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention and the 2003 Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention in November last year, Brunei Darussalam will have to invest a significant amount of effort to become part of a membership reserved for one of the most exclusive societies.

One such way, it was explained, will be the undertaking of "a lot of research, a lot of careful thinking" as well as talks "with as many people as possible" especially with those stationed at the UNESCO regional office in Jakarta, Indonesia as well as with "those who have been responsible in advising other governments in the region" that have been inscribed by UNESCO.

Local high education institute, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, he pointed, can play an important role with this particular endeavour, as he believes that "quite a lot of expertise can be furnished within the state".

"Resources can be drawn up to begin research and the preparation for a case," he opined.

The field of education, too, has special function as with the signing of the conventions, Brunei "has a responsibility to ensure that the population of the country is informed and kept informed of the heritage and its importance" especially the younger generation whom are considered the country's future leaders.

Yesterday's lecture that was attended by students from various institutions, meanwhile, was entitled "UNESCO in Southeast Asia: World Heritage Sites in Comparative Perspective" that highlighted seven Southeast Asian countries in the first comparative three-year research programme funded by The British Academy to consider how sites are being managed and how such sites are coping with the conflicting pressures to which they are subject in a globalising heritage industry and in national policies and development plans.

"In comparing sites within and beyond a particular country, it is hoped to draw out lessons for best practice to feed into UNESCO and national government approaches to heritage, conservation and tourism development," it was stated.

Emeritus Professor Victor T King is the Executive Director of White Rose East Asia Centre (WREAC) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He specialises in, among others, socio-economic development and applied anthropology in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday