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History and Development

The Award of Excellence for Handicrafts (formerly known as Seal of Excellence for Handicrafts) of Southeast Asia was jointly established by UNESCO and the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA) in 2000, in order to establish quality standards and to enhance international awareness of handicrafts from the 10 ASEAN countries.

The Award serves as a quality-control mechanism and as a marketing device that guarantees the quality of handmade, traditional and innovative craft products from the region.

The Award is therefore not an award given for the most outstanding piece, but a ‘stamp of approval’ which certifies that a handicraft product or product line meets the highest standards of quality and has been produced with careful regard to cultural authenticity and environmental conservation.

Due to the success of the Award of Excellence programme in South-East Asia, UNESCO Bangkok was approached in 2003 by the Central Asia Crafts Support Association (CACSA) and the Crafts Council of India (CCI) requesting assistance in replicating the Award programme in West-Central and South Asia respectively.

The Central Asia Crafts Support Association (CACSA) in Kyrgyzstan, together with UNESCO Almaty, successfully launched the Award of Excellence for Handicraft Products in West-Central Asia. The West-Central Asia group consists of two clusters: the Almaty cluster, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; and the Tehran cluster, including Afghanistan, I.R. of Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan. The evaluation events have been rotating among the participating countries since the programme inception.

The first evaluation of the entries for South Asia was held in New Delhi in September 2004 with 35 products from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka being granted the Award. For more information about the Award of Excellence South Asia programme, please visit the UNESCO New Delhi website and Crafts Council of India (CCI) site.

UNESCO Beijing launched the Award program in East Asia in 2006 in China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia and Republic of Korea.