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Building the Future: The Role of Heritage in the Sustainable Development of Yangon

From January 15 to 17, 2015, World Monuments Fund (WMF), in cooperation with the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) and with generous support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council, hosted a forum in Yangon titled "Building the Future: The Role of Heritage in the Sustainable Development of Yangon." The event brought together a group of more than 80 attendees, including Myanmar government officials, international experts, nonprofit representatives, and members of the media, in an effort to advance urban planning and modernization policies in Yangon that integrate heritage conservation. Yangon's historic downtown faces the challenge of establishing itself as a twenty-first-century Asian city while protecting the well-preserved historic urban landscape and traditions that make it unique. The program included a series of themed preserntations, moderated panel discussions, and exchanges with the audience. The dialogue encouraged a sustainable approach to the development of Yangon that capitalizes on the value of its heritage, both tangible and intangible, as a key factor in ensuring quality of life for residents and as a primary draw for visitors.

Yangon's historic city center was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch to increase awareness about the obstacles facing cultural heritage during a time of intense development pressure. In response to these challenges, the forum resulted in practical policy recommendations for sustainable development utilizing heritage conservation to achieve physical, economic, and social benefits. Recommendations include recognizing a downtown conservation area and a city zoning plan, creating a government focal point to facilitate conservation and heritage investment, developing infrastructure to improve quality of life, fast-tracking government approval of YHT-identified pilot projects, and implementing a waterfront plan for public access and balanced development. A full report on the proceedings and policy recommendations will be published later in 2015.