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Integrated Community Development and Cultural Heritage Site Preservation through Local Effort in Asia and the Pacific

After the earthquake in Lijiang World Heritage site, China, 1996.

My Son Sanctuary once destroyed by war, Viet Nam.

Integrated Community Development and Cultural Heritage preservation through leap -- Local effort in Asia & the Pacific Regulations intended to protect and preserve cultural monuments and sites, historic urban centres and cultural landscapes have often -- if inadvertently -- dispossessed local inhabitants of their ancestral homes.

Their homes, neighbourhoods and land, imbued with the legends and legacies of the past, have been transformed into parks and tourist attractions, ostensibly for the greater benefit of society. But in many cases, those who manage the sites have no affinity with the collective memory; the site is just another economic asset to exploit and to abandon if the financial returns no longer justify the investment.

UNESCO's experience throughout the world over the past 50 years has shown that when a site loses the involvement of its community, its conservation problems are aggravated. The continued participation of the local community is particularly important in the developing world where public funds are insufficient to cover the costs of site maintenance.

LEAP's objective is to empower the local community to:

  • understand and advocate the longer term conservation of the historic cultural sites;
  • play a leading role in the work of protecting, conserving, presenting and managing the site;
  • benefit financially from enhanced conservation while maintaining social and spiritual traditions.

It is a people-centred development project that addresses issues of environmental conservation, the right to shelter, urbanisation and the globalisation of culture within the context of cultural heritage preservation and enhancement.

The first phase (1996-97) of the project initiated in three of the historic cities participating in the Programme for Asian World Heritage Cities for the 21st century has been made possible by a generous grant to UNESCO from the Netherlands Government. The project is administered by the UNESCO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific based in Bangkok in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO Headquarters.