文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage JCIC-Heritage logo JCIC-Heritage

Support for development of a legal framework for cultural heritage in Bhutan

Support for development of a legal framework for cultural heritage in Bhutan

Kyushu University Graduate School of Law

Bhutan

Cultural Heritage in Bhutan

2011-2015 Local Development
01/04/2014
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BACKGROUND

Why Bhutan? Why a legal framework?

Bhutan’s cultural heritage

In Bhutan, virtually pristine nature that varies according to altitude and traditional landscapes composed of small villages that adapted to this natural environment are found throughout the country. Amid an environment surrounded by traditional houses and farmland and pastures that follow the shape of the natural terrain, the local people developed a lifestyle that placed great value on their distinctive culture, customs, religious spirituality and tradition of mutual support. This lifestyle is not something that has been sustained by special protection measures, but is a wholly natural aspect of present-day Bhutan. The 2,000 some temples throughout the country, regardless of whether they are ancient or new garner the deep faith of the people and play an important role as a center of each community. The magnificent dzongs, which serve as both administrative centers and homes of Buddhist monks, are not only a heritage of Bhutan’s history since the 17th century, but exist more as properties that continue to mark new chapters in the future history of the country. There is nowhere else in the world where the tangible heritage (architectural buildings) and intangible heritage (tradition and faith) merge and co-exist in such a chaotic and dynamic manner.

Necessity of a legal framework for cultural heritage

This dynamism ensures the continued existence of Bhutan’s cultural heritage in the hands of its people, but it also signifies that any changes in traditional lifestyles will directly lead to modifications of the country’s tangible heritage (such as rebuilding and renovation of the architectures). Ancient buildings have been continuously altered in response to needs for more space to accommodate an increasing number of monks and followers and for upgrading their functions, and have also increased their magnificence as a display of merit or other religious reason at every opportunity. However, given today’s rapid trend toward modernization, relevant authorities in Bhutan face a large issue on how best to reconsider this cultural dynamism, which has heretofore been backed by traditional spirituality, within the administrative scope of cultural heritage protection. Thus the development of a leg++al framework for cultural heritage is strongly sought as an effective tool for the comprehensive protection of cultural heritage in Bhutan.

Scenery in Bhutan

Ruined Dzong near Paro City

ACTIVITIES

Methods to develop a legal framework and the results achieved up to now

Project background

In the winter of 2010, we had the opportunity to meet with a UNESCO personnel and learned about present situations in Bhutan. We felt a need to see the country with our own eyes and thus we visited Bhutan and witnessed both its beauty and its rapid development. In a meeting with a high-level officials in the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of Bhutan, we were informed of three issues –namely, protection of ancient documents, protection of tangible cultural heritage (excluding movable cultural properties, for which laws already exist) and protection of intangible cultural heritage –and we promised to cooperate. Fortunately, we were able to launch full-scale activities with funding from the Official Development Assistance Grant for UNESCO Activities provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and have been able to receive the grant over three years so far. To further solidify our activities, a three-party cooperation agreement was exchanged between Kyushu University, UNESCO New Delhi Office, and the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of Bhutan.

Methods and the achieved results

In regard to the protection of ancient documents, we began by critically examining a draft law that already existed, which had issues in the unification of concepts and structure. There was a complete lack of reviewing the concepts regarding historic buildings and intangible cultural heritage. Thus after obtaining information on present situations from an official in the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and making an onsite inspection, we discussed the scope of the law at length and engaged in activities to formulate the structure and specific articles of a draft law. We have taken the approach to rely on a local officer to examine the formulated articles, which the results will be further critically examined and revised. In other words, a fundamental method will be adopted, which would allow proper conceptualization of local needs through an accurate understanding based on continuous discussions.

Meeting for the cultural heritage law drafting at the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs

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Drafting of the law

RESULTS

Towards the future

Achievements made thus far

We were fortunate to receive the previously-mentioned grant from MEXT for the last three years, which led to the completion of a Cultural Agency draft for the protection law of the ancient documents. With respect to the protection of tangible cultural heritage, we have been able to practically complete the text for the law concerning historical buildings and engage in examination for regulation proposals concerning cultural landscapes. With respect to intangible cultural heritage, we conducted a survey of relevant governmental authorities, and are presently working on compiling the results.

Future outlook

This year marks the third year of our project, and we have begun to see our way to completion of a draft law for tangible cultural heritage protection within this fiscal year. We will also direct our efforts to formulating enforcement regulations for the law for protection of tangible cultural heritage, as well as to formulating a law for intangible heritage protection. As Bhutan is a signatory of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and has submitted three cultural properties to the World Heritage Tentative List in fiscal 2012, we also hope to provide our assistance in defining their authenticity and integrity as World Heritage Sites, as required by the Convention.

Traditional view of Bhutan

Punakha Dzong

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