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ICOMOS Annual General Assembly and Advisory Committee Meeting 2015 Held in Fukuoka

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is an NGO composed of specialists in the conservation of the world’s important buildings and archaeological heritage sites. One particular function is as an advisory body to UNESCO. ICOMOS examines world heritage proposals from around the world, and provides guidance to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

Last October 26-29, the 2015 ICOMOS Annual General Assembly and Advisory Committee Meeting was hosted by the city of Fukuoka, at ACROS Fukuoka and the Fukuoka City Museum of Literature.

The 228 participants at the convention included the heads of the national committees of over 100 countries and 30 academic committees. It had been over 20 years since Japan last hosted this important forum for the discussion of ICOMOS policies, the last occasion having been the 1994 General Assembly in the city of Nara.

Along with the AGM and advisory panel meeting, there were events to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of ICOMOS, along with an academic symposium. It was the perfect opportunity to build awareness among the people of Fukuoka regarding the current situations in Nepal and Syria, and the status quo in global heritage conservation.

Prior to the convention, October 24 saw ICOMOS President Gustavo Araoz and his executive committee visit the sacred island of Okinoshima, currently shortlisted along with related sites in the Munakata region for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2017.

There were also excursions planned during the convention itself, including to Dazaifu, the temples of Hakata, and the site of Fukuoka castle. Following the convention, on October 30, attendees split into groups to visit Munakata Taisha (a candidate for the heritage shortlist in 2017), Manda Pit and Miike Coal Mine (shortlisted for heritage status in 2015), Yawata Steel Works (inscribed in 2015), and the Christian churches and sites of Nagasaki (withdrawn from the heritage shortlist in 2016).

As many of the attendees and executive members were visiting Japan for the first time, the events and excursions throughout the convention provided an ideal chance to build awareness of the culture of Japan and Fukuoka, along with omotenashi (the Japanese spirit of hospitality), as well as to gather deep insights for Japan’s future World Heritage nominations.

This year’s General Meeting in Fukuoka was a welcome opportunity to consider how to preserve the World Heritage-inscribed and shortlisted sites of Kyushu and the cultural assets of humanity as a whole, as well as how to pass these assets on to the next generation. The event was honored with an award from JNTO as an outstanding international conference in 2015.

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