On December 14th 1992, in Santa Fe (USA), the World Heritage Committee requested from the Cambodian national authorities to fulfill 5 conditions, among which the establishment of an adequate staffed national protection and caretaker agency. Thus, the Royal Decree of February 19th 1995, created the Authority for the Protection and Safeguarding of Angkor and the Region of Angkor (its acronym in French, APSARA, is a reference to the celestial dancers).
This national Authority is charged with:
– Monuments, preservation, maintenance, restoration;
– Management of the historic water system (barays, ponds, canals, rivers);
– Tourism management and dialogue with the communities living among traditional villages in the site;
– Research to enhance the cultural values of the site and its region, especially the cultural heritage of Siem Reap town;
– Protection and conservation of forests within and around the site;
– Training and capacity building.
During 25 years of activities, APSARA National Authority has changed the picture and permitted the gradual transfer of skills to Cambodians professionals, keeping active at the same time the field operations of the international cooperation. It is with its almost 3000 employees, the first employer of the region. It plays a crucial role in the management of Angkor, World Heritage Site, under the guidance of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
It has answered the call of the Cambodian people voiced through His Majesty the King and the international community.
The establishment of the APSARA National Authority Cambodia’s future rests mostly with Angkor: a geographical area, an archaeological site and a cultural place. Some of the main components essential for the survival of the nation interact at these crossroads of ancient and modern civilisations. The Angkorian heritage is rich in first class economic and human potential, which may lay the foundations for and provide the necessary protection of Khmer heritage for future generations.
Thereby, it is only within the framework of sustainable development that cultural heritage can be efficiently protected and developed. The main challenge that the Royal Government is facing consists in turning diverging, when not clashing, interests into sustainable resources that will serve the needs of the Angkor region and in turn those of the nation. This is the reason the Government established the APSARA in 1995, which was put in charge of protecting the site and developing the Angkor region.
The establishment of the Authority was the first concrete step taken by the Government towards sustainable development, along with the protection and promotion of cultural heritage. Beyond Siem Reap and Angkor, the establishment of the Authority has served as an example of a fundamental reform. The APSARA National Authority is a body adapted to modern management and originates from Khmer cultural funds. It operates within a Government framework with an inter-ministerial structure based on the willingness to bring administrative practises towards a fruitful and efficient partnership with the international community.
This Authority has since then been in charge at Angkor of the drafting and implementation of conservation, rehabilitation and development planning and of the coordination of activities at the national and international levels. This legal and institutional framework has changed the picture. Cambodia now plays an active role in the management of Angkor, a national and global heritage for future generations. It has answered the call of the Cambodian people, voiced through its King and the international community.
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