Sunday, August 24, 2008

" Historic Preservation and America in the World"

Donovan Rypkema, a Washington consultant on historical preservation with both domestic and international experience, has posted a very interesting and thought provoking essay on his Heritage Strategies Blog.

He starts with the observation:
(N)o objective observer and no one who has traveled to foreign countries in recent years can escape three realities: 1) among both America's friends and America's opponents regard for the United States has fallen dramatically in recent years; 2) the regaining of the respect and the reestablishment of the leadership of the United States will take concentrated effort over a long period of time - perhaps a generation or more; and 3) essential to that effort will be the reengagement of the American government with international institutions, most of which were created through the leadership of the United States.
He then goes on to suggest twenty reasons why historic preservation not only can play an important role in a reenergized public diplomacy, but needs to play that role. Finally, he suggests ten steps that the United States Government could take in the international promotion of historic preservation.
"When was the last time that virtually every country in the world was on the same side of the same issue - India and Pakistan, Israel and the PLO, Africa and Europe, North America and South America? It was n the condemnation of the wanton destruction of the Buddhist statuary in Afghanistan by the Taliban - a historic preservation issue.

Conversely, in recent years perhaps the best example of the impact of symbolic healing was the restoration of the Old Bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina funded by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund."
Donovan Rypkema
Editorial Comment: The UNESCO led efforts to save Abu Simbel is the most famous example of a global effort of historic preservation. The support by Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation of UNESCO's World Heritage Center is perhaps America's best example of a public-private partnership in soft diplomacy. JAD

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