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09.00  A Comparison of the Governance of Historic City Conservation in Eastern Asian Countries: Similarities, Variants and Perspectives (cancelled)

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9:00, Monday 6 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

In the last two decades, the richness and diversity of historic cities in Eastern Asian countries have seriously suffered due to the rapid and tremendous urban transformations, both in urbanized and urbanizing countries. In spite of the great efforts throughout these countries, the conservation results are still unstable and unpredictable, as are the universal symptoms across the countries and prevailing in the historic cities at the local level. This study conducted an analysis of each single country and carried out a comprehensive comparison among the countries in order to reveal some contemporary characteristics, deficiencies and problems of urban conservation governance, including the logic for the governance and its patterns, the implementation of the policies by inventing the instruments, the mechanisms and the multiple actors and their performances.  

Some principal conclusions about the urban conservation governance can summarized as follows. Three main patterns of conservation governance can be identified: the countries (including Japan, South Korea, and China) have established a specific system for urban conservation while the other countries (including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand) are integrating urban conservation in spatial planning and physical construction systems, and other countries (like Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao’s, Myanmar, and North Korea) are still focusing efforts on the single monuments or built complexes.  

The governmental bodies are indispensable in the urban conservation governance, however, the degrees and frequencies of the involvement of the other actors—such as the organizations of civil society, the private sectors and the individuals—actually represents the features of the conservation mechanisms that collaborate and coordinate the multiple actors between the diverse levels. Few countries operate urban conservation in the de-centralization manner along with wide engagements of the public (such as Malaysia and Indonesia), while most others adopt the centralized or top-down manner (such as Singapore). Japan might be the only exception in that the centralized and public engagement techniques are well integrated. However, some underdeveloped countries, such as Laos and Myanmar, are still relatively weak in operating the mechanism due to the un-complementary institutional construction and financial constraints.  

Some common instruments and policies are commonly invented and implemented both at the national and local levels, including the planning strategy and instruments such as designation, zoning and authorization measures; the management policies such as the tourism and heritage utilization; the project-based programs or inter-sectorial initiatives by the nation and the locals; the finance and subsiding programs; and the variant guidelines or technical manuals. 

Despite the diversity of governance conditions, the following deficiencies result in similar phenomenon and problems that need to be tackled by the theories and practices of the urban governance of the historic cities in the future: 

  • The urban conservation governance is still predominantly marginalized between the systems of urban development and heritage conservation, both at the national level and the local level of historic cities. 
  • With the exception of a few cities, like Kyoto, Singapore, and Vigan, the local governance system is overlooked in the legal framework construction, the duties-benefits balance between the actors, the allocation of financial resources and the distribution of the interests raised from the urban heritages.  
  • Frequently the target and schemes are not consistently adhered to during the whole governance process due to the insufficiencies of the capabilities and the restriction of the resources for appropriately operating the urban conservation.  
  • Lastly, but most importantly, in spite of the widespread diffusion of urban conservation practices, most of the countries still protect single monuments, which underpins the governance logic but in certain degree impedes the progresses of governance and policy making adapted to urban dynamism and transformation.

Yifeng Yao


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