The World Heritage List Countdown: Bagan on way to UNESCO listinga

The World Heritage List Countdown: Bagan on way to UNESCO listing

Myanmar will learn in 2019 if the temple-studded plain at Bagan has been granted World Heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 23 years after an initial attempt to have the site added to the coveted list.


Myanmar started applying procedure in 1990s.


In 1996, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, nominated eight properties for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. As of yet, none have been accepted and remain on UNESCO’s tentative list. In terms of world heritage procedures, the country must be a member of the United Nations and a signatory to UNESCO’s convention to be allowed to apply, which Myanmar already is.


Furthermore, applicants have to submit the list of sites to be recognized as world heritage one year ahead of the submission of the dossier. In 1995, Myanmar had not finished delimiting the Bagan site and no legislation for heritage conservation existed at the time.


Bagan is one of the proposed sites.


Bagan, brimming with historic and cultural wealth, is among the proposed sites to be considered for listing at a meeting of UNESCO’s world heritage committee in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, from June 10 to July 10, 2019.


Capital city of the first Myanmar Kingdom, the site of Bagan measures 13 by 8 km and contains more than 2,500 Buddhist monuments built from the 10th to the 14th centuries AD. Several of these monuments are still highly venerated by the population, and attract numerous pilgrims and devotees from all over the country, particularly at festival times. Other are in various states of conservation and maintenance. The large corpus of contemporary stone inscriptions have been the most reliable source for the history of the Kingdom. The mural paintings inside more than 300 temples constitutes a unique corpus of paintings of that time in southeast Asia.


Political Progress


The past years have seen Myanmar making slow yet continuous political progress. Its first general election was held in 2010 and, despite reports that the election was shrouded in illegal activity, it is a positive signifier for future proceedings. These progressions have been noticed by countries on a world wide scale, especially since President Obama visited Burma in 2012, the same year the EU lifted certain sanctions.


In 2012, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova also paid Bagan a visit to discuss how relations between the organization and Burma will progress. In the future, UNESCO experts will be working alongside Bagan’s archaeological team to enhance their conservation and restoration skills, as well as establishing a mural conservation training course. These tentative steps are a positive starting point in the creation of a viable economic and managerial framework able to support Bagan’s cultural history.


Myanmar already ascended to the UNESCO world heritage – cultural site status in 2014 for three Pyu ancient cities: Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra. The world heritage committee will adjudicate on the second submission of Bagan in June or July 2019. So we will continuously watch whether Bagan will become the next world heritage-cultural site of Myanmar.





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