The UNCESCO chief, who arrived in Vietnam on Monday for a three-day visit, released the information in an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper following her attending the 50th anniversary of the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage held in Ninh Binh Province on Tuesday.
The event also was joined by Vietnam’s National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO Ha Kim Ngoc, and many other officials.
Azoulay told the ceremony that the province’s Trang An Landscape Complex, which was officially recognized by UNESCO in 2014 as a World Heritage Site, has emerged as a successful example of the balance between development and heritage preservation.
Located near the southern margin of the Red River Delta, this complex offers a spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs, according to UNESCO.
Taking the site as a model for economic development, sustainable tourism and respect for nature, Azoulay said UNESCO has chosen the site, along with three other world heritage ones, to pilot a project on sustainable tourism to enhance benefits for local communities, especially for women.
It is needed to ensure that such efforts to reconcile tourism and sustainable development with nature conservation are carried out at all UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Vietnam to preserve the beauty of each of them, as well as at all other heritage sites globally, Azoulay appealed.
Commenting on the anniversary, the UNESCO leader described the event as a double celebration since it not only coincides with the anniversary of the 1972 convention but also marks the 35th year of Vietnam’s ratification of the convention.
|This image shows Vietnam’s National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue (gesturing) and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay at the 50th anniversary of the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage in Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam on September 6, 2022. Photo: Vietnam News Agency
Over the past 35 years, Azoulay said, Vietnam has had eight heritage sites recognized as World Heritage Sites, including the complex of relics of the ancient capital of Hue in Thua Thien – Hue Province, Hoi An Ancient Town in Quang Nam Province, and the latest one Trang An Landscape Complex, among others.
Each heritage, in its own way, is contributing to promoting the rich history of Vietnam, as well as the richness and diversity of Vietnamese culture, the head of UNESCO emphasized.
Referring to current challenges for heritage conservation, Azoulay said that there are two major ones, including the reconciliation between conservation and development, while the second is climate change.
Vietnam is not only among the countries that have achieved the highest economic growth rates in the world over the past 20 years, but also the nation that has made great efforts to ensure heritage protection is not sacrificed to development, the UNESCO chief said, underlining that this is the reason that has inspired her to visit Vietnam.
Climate change affects many things, even including culture, and it is an issue everyone needs to be concerned about, the UNESCO leader said in response to questions by Tuoi Tre about how climate change affects heritage conservation in Vietnam and the solutions recommended by UNESCO, which Vietnam joined in 1976.
Azoulay pointed out that recent terrible natural disasters, from floods to forest fires, have impacted the world’s natural and cultural heritage sites significantly, but these relics themselves can also provide people with solutions for mitigating the influences of climate change.
“If we expand the heritage area further, especially natural heritage sites and biosphere reserves, the protected natural area will not only become larger, but also create more livelihoods for people,” she said, adding that Trang An is a very good example of this sphere.
She also mentioned the role of education in heritage preservation, expressing her hope that Vietnam will include in children’s education programs the topic of protection of nature, culture, climate, and environment.