Xi’an Declaration Adopted on 15th ICOMOS General Assembly
The 15th ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) General Assembly was held in the ancient capital city of Xi'an from Oct. 17th to 21st, 2005, and the topic of the conference is "Relics in the Background Environment". More than 1,200 representatives from various international organizations such as UNESCO, World Museum Association, and World Cultural Relic Fund Foundation and from 85 countries and regions have gathered in Xi'an, the capital with a history of a thousand years.
The conference passed Xi'an Declaration regarding the problem of how to protect the surrounding environment of cultural relics. The Declaration proposes methods of evaluation, management and protection for the surrounding environment near an old architecture, an old relics and a historical site. It calls for governments' interference by drafting laws, making policies, and carrying out planning and management, to reduce the damage to the authenticity, wholeness and diversity of the cultural relics during the process of urbanization.
ZHANG Bai, Chairman of Chinese Relics Protection Association and Deputy Director of National Relics Bureau, said that the birth of this document showed the change of the idea of international relics protection. Cultural relics protection used to refer to protecting the relics themselves, such as reinforcing an old architecture, clearing a grotto, and excavating an old city site, etc. However, according to Xi'an Declaration, any natural, humanitarian, social and economic environment which affects the value of an old architecture, a historical site and region will be taken as part of the cultural relics. In the specific practice of relics protection, interference on the environment should be added.
"At present, we will consider the damage to the relics brought by slight shocks when we are constructing railways and high-ways. We will exhibit the aesthetic feeling of the city's historical sites in an optimum way during urban planning. We will even optimize the existing environment of relics by eliminating air pollution," said ZHANG Bai.
Michael Petzet, Chairman of ICOMOS said, "The birth of Xi'an Declaration is resulted from the holding of the General Assembly's International Symposium on 'Monuments and Sites in their Settings – Conserving Cultural Heritage in Changing Townscapes and Landscapes', where representatives from 85 countries and regions proposed a lot of cases and experiences."
As to the authority of Xi'an Declaration, ZHANG Bai indicated that as an industrial common knowledge, although the Declaration is non-compulsary, it will penetrate into the thoughts of governments and common people, and influence legalization eventually.