Background

Following the destruction of the Buddha statues by the Taliban in 2001, the Government of Afghanistan and UNESCO carried out intensive conservation activities at the site. In 2003, the archaeological remains in Bamiyan were inscribed on the List of World Heritage and the List of Heritage in Danger.

From the beginning, the Government of Afghanistan has clearly stated a desire to rebuild the Buddha statues. Now, after many years of careful conservation and stabilisation work on the Eastern Buddha niche, the site is secure enough to consider potential revitalisation options.

A three-day technical meeting and one-day public symposium will be held in Tokyo in September 2017 to discuss the possibility of revitalising one or more of the Buddha statues within the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley World Heritage Property.

Revitalisation of cultural heritage due to acts of deliberate destruction must be addressed not merely from the point of a material conservation philosophy but within the context of holistic strategies for the protection of human rights and promotion of peace building. At the same time this needs to contribute to the protection of Outstanding of Universal Value (OUV) of the Bamiyan World Heritage Site.

The meeting will provide an opportunity to consider the possible revitalisation of the Buddha statues and the potential implications both regionally and internationally. It will also provide a forum for inclusive decision making with local community representatives, experts and Afghan Government stakeholders and to recognize the need for continued open discussion in relation to issues concerning the World Heritage Property, in local, regional and international levels. It is also prerequisite that the discussion be addressed to all related heritage conventions and charters.

The secondary reason for holding the technical meeting and symposium, is to discuss the positive role that the revitalisation of heritage can play in fostering nations’ understanding of their history and identity, recognition of human rights, mutual respect among peoples and of the diversity and equal dignity of the world’s cultures. It is of central significance to the technical meeting and symposium that the concerned government representatives, technical experts and donors recognize the importance of the role culture can play in the peace-building and development process specifically in conflict or post-conflict regions.

Throughout, participants will be invited to discuss how cultural heritage programmes can be better integrated with broader development and peace-building initiatives. The culture sector in Bamiyan is currently well poised to effect a fundamental contribution to peace and state- building initiatives through the promotion of a positive cross-cultural discussion, interaction, understanding and respect for cultural heterogeneity and human rights. Cultural heritage resources can be mobilized to this end, for example, by utilizing historical monuments that galvanize community support around historical and contemporary symbolic values; myth, ritual and religion that coalesce communities around movable, immovable, tangible and intangible heritage values. This process can create a platform for a clearer understanding of a nation’s origins and what it aspires to achieve in the future.

 

Objectives

The Symposium will be convened to:

1.     Foster an exchange of research, experience and observations in order to clarify heritage conservation theory and practice of revitalisation of cultural properties. Such a dialogue will contribute to a better understanding of past approaches and current practice in order to provide guidance to meet the needs of the 21st century;

2.     Examine a number of technical proposals presented by international experts in their fields, concerning the potential revitalisation of one or more of the Buddha statue(s) at the Bamiyan World Heritage Property;

3.     Assess the practicality of the methods presented in (a) and likely financial and logistical practicalities;

4.     Discuss relevant issues pertaining to ‘authenticity’ and an impact to the Outstanding Universal Value at the site in light of potential revitalisation works at the Bamiyan World Heritage site;

5.     Discuss other issues related conservation, development, tourism and security that might arise as a result of potential revitalisation of one or more Buddha statue(s); and

6.     Advise the Government of Afghanistan, in compliance with the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and its Operational Guidelines as well as all related international conservation charters, on any potential issues that may arise as a result of interventions.

 

The Eastern Buddha Niche.  UNESCO’s Photo Competition, The Afghanistan we are proud of © Latif Azimi

The Eastern Buddha Niche. 

UNESCO’s Photo Competition, The Afghanistan we are proud of © Latif Azimi