A status as world heritage city, site or anything else, both tangible and intangible, becomes prestigious in Indonesia (and Asia in general) now. It is a new trend when many cities slowly realize that their cities are entitled for that status. Jakarta started as the first city to nominate itself. No, UNESCO was not satisfied with the nomination and Jakarta politely withdrawed its nomination. After Jakarta, Sawahlunto followed. We don't know the result yet. Now Semarang is keen to apply.

Nominate a city for the sake of status as world heritage city is not appropriate. A status is a kind of recognition from international world for properly well managed historical cities. Cities that value their characters, cherish them for current life and conserve them for the future.  Characters have to come along with other qualities such as economic, social and environmental elements.

Most old city quarters in Indonesia are dying. When ideas about conservation pop up, the tendency is to create an open air museum to freeze the past by duplicating old life style, literary and physically. Tourism becomes a norm. Indonesian autorities create another Venezia unnecessarily. 

In my opinion, conservation should accomodate current needs without sacrificing characters of a place or values of the past. An old city quarter should transform into living and working spaces with appropriate green, mobility and leisure ammenities. If tourism come to share joys, welcome, it is a positive and potential side effect. 

I don't think cities in Indonesia move towards that direction yet. On paper, yes. Reality? It take time to plan and execute the plan properly. So jump into nomination process without understanding and implementing proper conservation is like putting aside some steps of a good recipe and hoping to have a good result. No, it wouldn't happen, it creates disasters. 

Nevertheless, awareness about city characters and conservation are appreciated and should be accommodated. Conservation authorities in Indonesia needs to have opportunities to learn, to learn and to learn. Hopefully they will squeeze good lessons and apply them in their tasks. 

That was the reason I was involved in a cooperation to learn about nomination process. It is a cooperation between Indonesia and the Netherlands started in 2017 continued this year and hopefully the coming years as well. Case study is the shared past, trading of spices and other commodities during VOC era. The idea is to let authorities in Indonesia who are in charge for cultural heritage conservation to coordinate and to cooperate in nomination process. Those are Ministry of Education and Culture, Ministry of Public Works and Ministry of Agraria and Spatial Planning plus local governments (municipalities and regencies). 

These are pictures taken in various cities in the Netherlands in the period of 17-21 September 2018 during a workshop about nomination process. 


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