Cambodia was admitted as a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 1951. The Kingdom of wonders has increasingly gained international support in protecting and preserving its cultural heritage after UNESCO listed the 12th historic temple in Angkor as a world heritage site in 1992.
Cambodia’s cultural institution of APSARA, in collaboration with the International Coordinating Committee, known as ICC-Angkor, has played a key role in attracting donors near and far for contributions to protect, preserve and restoration work of the Angkor complex that covers more than 400 sq km in Siem Reap province.
Cambodia and donors, through the ICC-Angkor, achieved tremendous success in restoring the site after which another 1,000-year-old temple in Preah Vihear province was listed as a world heritage site in July 2008. Cambodia’s third historic site, the temple zone of Sambor Prei Kuk in Kampong Thom province, was also listed as a world heritage site last year.
Not a serendipitous occurrence
ICC-Angkor, of APSARA, became an international model in terms of preservations, protection and restorations. Cambodia was elected by the World Heritage Committee (WHC) to host the committee’s 37th session in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in June 2013, receiving the largest ever foreign delegation of more than 14,000.
During the 10-day session the Kingdom worked with stakeholders, such as the WHC, and announced the listing of more than 20 sites, including 14 cultural ones.
In this respect, Cambodia being elected to head the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) is not a serendipitous incident, but is the result of the Kingdom’s success story of international cooperation through ICC-Angkor since 1992 in the field of culture with five other Cambodian cultural practices and expressions of intangible heritage being inscribed into the World Heritage List.
The Asian Cultural Council (ACC) is now recognized by UNESCO as an international institution after it was established in April 2018 by the regional group of political parties, International Conference of Political Parties (ICAPP), comprising 352 members, including in parties in power and the opposition from 52 countries in Asia.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, the founding honorary chairperson of ACC
Honorary Jose de Venecia, the founding chairman and Chairman of the Standing Committee of ICAPP, nominated Prime Minister Hun Sen, of Cambodia as the founding honorary chairperson of ACC and Lok Chumteav Khuon Sudary, the second vice-chairwoman of the National Assembly, as the council’s chairperson.
The three vice-chairpersons of ACC are Guo Yezhou (China), the vice-chairman of ICAPP, Sujata Koiral (Nepal), ICAPP standing committee member, and Andrey Klimov (Russia), ICAPP standing committee member.
Suos Yara, a National Assembly lawmaker, is the ACC director-general.
The ACC was an initiative of Cambodia, China, Russia and Nepal and the commendable partnership agreement is historic for ICAPP and Asian political parties.
Cambodia, China, Nepal, and Russia are tasked with establishing the terms of reference for ACC, in line with a decision made during the 27th Meeting of the ICAPP Standing Committee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in September 2016.
During the 10th General Assembly of ICAPP in October this year in Moscow, Russia, the grouping adopted a declaration supporting the establishment of a cooperation agreement with UNESCO, saying that the bureau of ACC chaired by Cambodia would contribute to the expansion of the ICAPP’s role in providing platforms for strengthened cooperation with international organizations, such as UNESCO. ACC’s charter consists of seven chapters and 14 articles.
The ACC’s objectives: to promote mutual understanding and cultural exchanges among member countries, promote unity within diversity, promote cultural assets as sources of sustainable development and international cooperation, and connecting civilizations and build a harmonious Asia.
On November 29 this year, the Office of the Council of Ministers (OCM), led by Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, Minister in charge of OCM, set up a secretariat and sub-committees working with the concerned institutions to handle the official launch of ACC in Siem Reap, the home of Angkor next year.
International event 15th-16th January at Angkor
Mr Hun Sen will preside over the official launch of the ACC on January 15 evening at the elephant terrace of the Angkor complex where about 300 people comprising regional VVIPs, cultural ministers and other dignitaries, and also artists will rock the stage to welcome the ACC bureau in Cambodia.
The invited countries include Nepal, Russia, Japan, South Korea, China, The Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Pakistan, Turkey, and India.
On the sideline of the 25th anniversary of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) on December 4 this year in Siem Reap, Mr Hun Sen presided over the signing ceremony of a cooperation agreement between UNESCO-ICAPP/ ACC, along with Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO, Ms Sudary and Park Ro-byug, Secretary General of ICAPP.
The signing event was to confirm the important role of the ACC, as an affiliated body of the ICAPP. The cooperation agreement consists of six articles.
Bridging greater cooperation, development
Mr Yara stressed at the signing of the cooperation agreement between UNESCO and ICAPP that: “in this respect, the ICAPP has set up this cultural mechanism, and at the impetus of Cambodia and UNESCO, we hope that all 352 members of the ICAPP… will use culture more extensively as a means to live together and build together our future in peace and prosperity.”
He also noted that “One of the main objectives of the Asian Cultural Council is the promotion of culture for the enhancement and enrichment of the quality of life, prosperity and interchange among peoples for greater mutual understanding among countries.”
ACC expects to issue a Siem Reap declaration concerning its work after the four roundtable discussions during the event.
(Ek Tha, also known as Ek Madra, is spokesman of the Office of the Council of Ministers)