“Hanoi: A Cultural Richness Unparalleled”

Hanoi has been actively promoting its traditional values and prioritizing culture in its pursuit of sustainable development.

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Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is renowned for its long history and rich cultural heritage, as shared by Michael Croft, Acting UNESCO Representative to Vietnam, in an exclusive interview with The Hanoi Times.

Michael Croft, Acting UNESCO Representative to Vietnam. 

What are your thoughts on Hanoi’s efforts to promote its culture and traditional values as part of its socio-economic development plan? 

Hanoi, being the capital city of Vietnam, has gained recognition within the UNESCO networks for its extensive history and cultural richness.

We have recently witnessed a notable emphasis and collective endeavors in the promotion of cultural resources. In particular, the city conducted an inclusive public consultation from 2018 to 2019, resulting in the successful submission and acceptance of the Creative City of Design designation in October 2019. This significant achievement signifies a new milestone in Hanoi’s development agenda, with culture positioned at the core of sustainable growth.

This milestone reveals Hanoi’s aspiration to be recognized not only for its historical legacy and cultural heritage, but also for its innovative vision and abundant human resources capable of fostering innovation and driving quality growth through cultural assets.

UNESCO is immensely impressed by the city’s determination, evident in their strategic resolution on cultural industries, and the series of actions taken over the past four years. These actions include high-level policy dialogues, technical conferences, the notable seminar on mobilizing cultural and human resources for Hanoi’s development, the annual Hanoi Creativity and Design Week 2021-2022, the significant Hanoi Creative Festival 2023, as well as various international conferences, exhibitions, and cultural events.

This list is non-exhaustive, but it exemplifies the extensive efforts carried out by authorities and stakeholders to promote and establish culture as a fundamental pillar of Hanoi’s development.

The city’s transformation is evident through the revitalization and rejuvenation of numerous heritage sites and cultural landmarks. These places now serve as vibrant spaces featuring captivating exhibitions and showcases of artworks. Some notable examples include the Temple of Literature, Thang Long Citadel, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Dau Water Balance Tower, Gia Lam Train Factory, and over 30 other cultural sites and attractions across the city.

 Hang Dau Water Tower, built in the late 19th century, is now adorned as one of Hanoi’s popular tourist destinations. Photo: Huy Pham/The Hanoi Times

What are your insights on the impact of UNESCO designations on Hanoi’s heritage, cultural preservation, tourism development, and the support provided by UNESCO to the city and its future cooperation?

A notable highlight of our observation lies in the active engagement of the youth and the successful mobilization of Hanoi’s residents and visitors through various cultural campaigns and events. This signifies a shift from a traditional stage-audience approach to a more participatory and inclusive culture participation model.

Furthermore, we are pleased to witness the fruitful public-private policy dialogues and partnerships that have taken place since the early stages of consultation for the city’s application dossiers. These collaborations have led to numerous joint projects and activities in alignment with Hanoi’s new development agenda as a Creative Capital, characterized by innovative ideas and initiatives.

Since its official designation as a Creative City of Design, we have witnessed significant progress in terms of urban regeneration, creative education, and cultural dynamics, all driven by active community participation. The discourse surrounding strategic city planning emphasizes key concepts such as cultural identity and creativity, evident in innovative master plans along the banks of the Red River and ambitious proposals for illuminating heritage sites in the Old Quarter.

There are clear indications of increased attention and investment in both tangible and intangible cultural heritage by the government, as well as artists and creative practitioners. During the Hanoi International Conference held last November, representatives from nearly 20 UNESCO Creative Cities in Asia praised the programs being implemented by Hanoi, which provide a platform for talents to contribute and collaborate within Southeast Asia and beyond.

 Gia Lam Train Factory, one of the venues in the Hanoi Creative Festival 2023. Photo: Huy Pham/The Hanoi Times

UNESCO prioritizes cooperation with Hanoi through our country program. We have successfully initiated projects such as Hanoi Rethink, and a new project will commence this year with the financial support of SOVICO Group, a Vietnamese private sector organization. These initiatives aim to accompany and support Hanoi in implementing its action plan as part of the Global UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Ultimately, our cooperation program aims to foster youth creativity, contribute to Hanoi’s vision and action plan, and position Hanoi as an attractive destination in Southeast Asia, leveraging its cultural wealth and diversity.

Meanwhile, UNESCO stands ready to continue cooperation with and support for Hanoi’s visionary plan to safeguard and revitalize its cultural heritage, including the ongoing journey of research and promotion surrounding the Thang Long Imperial Citadel, an emblem of this thousand-year-old cultural city.

 Traditional costumes showcased at the Hanoi Creative Festival 2023. Photo: Huy Pham/The Hanoi Times