5th ASEM Cultural Ministers Meeting

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - Culture represents the most important factor for political and social stability, while ignorance, a lack of appreciation and intolerance towards culture and religion can result in insensitivity, misunderstandings, strife and civil disputes.

This was stated by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah on Tuesday while speaking at the 5th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Culture Ministers' Meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

"This has been seen on recent television, how insensitivity towards culture and religion has caused violence and social chaos," he said.

"We need to work together towards creating harmony and improving understanding towards universal cultural diversity. We also need to work together to handle this issue so that it is not misused by certain parties in the interest of their own agendas," he added.

During the meeting, Pehin Dato Hj Hazair also stressed on the importance of protecting and preserving culture, including the preservation of heritage cities, which is currently a hot topic in many countries around the world.

"This reminds us of the history of mankind, human ingenuity and creativity. Nowadays, heritage sites are facing serious Challenges due to rapid progress and development."

The minister further said that, like the industrial revolution and achievements in the mechanical field, cultural achievements in the field of ICT and globalisation can contribute to a country's economic development, especially through the creative arts.

He also described developments in the field of heritage preservation currently being carried out in Brunei.

This includes the changing of the contents of the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act of 1967 to be more relevant with current developments and to fulfil the criteria listed in the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972 and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003. Both the aforementioned conventions were signed by Brunei in 2011.

He further said Brunei has also documented a number of historical sites and monuments across the country and these efforts will continue in order to ensure their survival and continuity.

The minister also supported the workshop topics that were discussed over the course of the meeting, which concentrated on issues related to the management of historical cities in Asia and Europe.

He expressed optimism on the prospect of cooperating with other ASEM countries to share experiences, particularly in handling the management of historical sites in cities.

The minister also noted that ASEM through the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) has, on a number of occasions, held meetings between experts through workshops and heritage forums.

In regards to this, Pehin Dato Hj Hazair proposed that such workshops be extended to youths so that they can actively engage in developing urban heritage cities to become creative cities and at the same time encourage economic investment without damaging its cultural values and history.

He also shared with fellow ASEM culture ministers information regarding the Brunei Heritage Project - an IT project being carried out by the Brunei's Museums Department_ The project is expected to go online in early 2013 and will be combined with the Asia-Europe portal, 'Culture 360' with the aim of sharing, promoting and exchanging information among member countries of ASEM.

Among the digital information included in the project is information on the archaeological site in Kota Batu, which was the capital and port of Brunei between the 14th and 17th Centuries. The site will also become the first National Archaeological Park in Brunei and will be aimed at education and recreation.

The 5th ASEM Culture Ministers' Meeting, themed 'Managing Heritage Cities for a Sustainable Future', was attended by 38 ministers and representatives from ASEM members, and was officially opened by TYT Bapak Professor Muhammad Noh, Indonesia's Minister of Education and Culture.

In the chairman's statement following the meeting, the ASEM culture ministers gave their joint support and commitment in improving cooperation in a number of areas related to culture and heritage, including initiatives and roles carried out by the ASEM.

The ASEM culture ministers also declared that heritage conservation should involve policies and programmes aimed at improving the quality of life for the local community The ministers also expressed their hope that the conclusion of this statement will be taken into consideration in the ASEM Summit, which will be held in Vientiane, Lao PDR on November 5 and 6 later this year.

Brunei and the Netherlands joint-chaired a workshop session entitled 'Historic Urban Landscapes in Response to the Challenges and Disasters' and presented a paper entitled, The Preservation of Historic Building in the City: Brunei Darussalam's Experience' in a following workshop.

The 5th ASEM Culture Ministers' Meeting was also attended by Hj Mohd Rozan bin Hj Dato Paduka Mohd Yunos, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), as well as senior officers from both the MCYS and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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