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UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme identifies and preserves heritage sites of outstanding universal value to humanity. The Organization manages the World Heritage List, as established in the framework of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Natural and Cultural Heritage (1972). To date, 232 out of 1,007 World Heritage sites have been inscribed in the Asia Pacific region.

The Bangkok office provides technical assistance and mobilizes international expertise to protect sites in Asia and the Pacific, in particular those under threat.


Through the Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001), UNESCO seeks to protect historically precious Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH), which has been submerged for more than 100 years in international waters.

The annual UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation recognizes outstanding achievements in conserving or restoring heritage buildings and properties in the region through private or public-private initiatives. To be considered for the awards, the conserved or restored heritage structure, place or property, as well as the historic elements in settlements and landscape, must be over 50 years old. From 2000 to 2013, a total of 556 projects have been submitted from 24 Asia-Pacific countries.

Bangkok Office also works at sub-regional level mainly to foster intercultural dialogue and to stop the actions that destroy heritage across the region.

UNESCO has initiated Sub-regional Symposium for the Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage, most recently in South-East Asia. These symposiums aim to raise public awareness of UNESCO 1970 Convention’s commitments to instituting preventative measures to combat the illicit trades, outline provisions for restitution and strengthening international cooperation.

South-East Asia has also been a platform for the discussions on Shared Histories as a tool to promote intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace. The forum realizes that as the borders between countries open with the launch of the ASEAN economic and socio-cultural communities, increasing interactions between peoples of different cultural and social backgrounds will bring both greater prosperity as well as political tensions. A strong foundation of understanding is needed to guide this bigger community to its full potentials and peace.


Cultural heritage also encompasses living expressions and traditions that communities have inherited and passed on for generations, as recognized in the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003).

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) includes oral traditions, performing arts, rituals and festivals, craftsmanship and local knowledge about nature and the universe. The 2003 Convention puts communities and practitioners at the centre of safeguarding activities, recognizing their role as key players in ensuring the sustainable transmission of ICH.

As of 2013, 30 out of 155 States Parties to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of ICH are Asia-Pacific countries. 128 elements in Asia and the Pacific have been listed among 298 elements across the world.

UNESCO Bangkok is working to strengthen national capacities to implement the 2003 Convention. The Asia-Pacific beneficiary countries include Bhutan, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Sri Lanka. Trainings are organized through ongoing engagement with a network of accredited UNESCO trainers.

Culture, in its broad sense, underpins all aspects of sustainable development, be it cross-cutting issues such as gender, youth or climate change, or sectoral specific areas such as education, health or agriculture. In leading up to the post-2015 Global Development Goals agenda, UNESCO seeks to achieve greater recognition of its central role in sustainable development policies.

UNESCO Bangkok encourages inter-sectoral approaches to sustainable development. A regional project to promote ICH in schools to reinforce Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is being implemented by the Bangkok office.

Cultural Diversity is considered as a driving force for long-term development and an asset in poverty reduction. UNESCO promotes respect for cultural diversity in development interventions and policy-making, as recognized in the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005). This Convention encourages creativity and cultural expressions, which play a vital role in the transition towards knowledge societies.

In line with the 2005 Convention, UNESCO advocates for effective policies to sustain and promote the Cultural and Creative Industries. In the Asia-Pacific region, these industries have the potential to contribute to social and economic progress as well as to communities’ sense of identity. UNESCO Bangkok works with governments and relevant institutions to increase understanding on the UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics and to promote its application.

By encouraging diversity and creativity, UNESCO promotes research in the field of Arts Education and the exchange of information and good practices among teachers, artists and experts in the region. The Bangkok office has been encouraging academic institutions to join the Asia-Pacific Arts Education Observatories Network, and to systematically compile and disseminate information on arts education in the region.