The sound of ketimbung marked the official opening of a strategic meeting of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) Asia-Pacific in Hotel Inna Grand Bali Beach, Sanur, Denpasar last Sunday. Denpasar was selected to host the conference and declaration of a global commitment to safeguard the cultural heritage of the respective countries.

The three-day world conference addressed strategic issues, the most important of which was the increasing threat of the loss of cultural heritage, largely because youth are increasingly apt to ignore their own cultural heritage. That is why all countries that are members of the OWHC have strived hard to devise a strategy to open the eyes of young people in order to foster in them a love of their cultural heritage.

"The Denpasar Declaration is a source of pride. Denpasar could be a venue for the declaration. We discussed something that we never talk about: that is, youth and world cultural heritage. We hope that the Denpasar Declaration can serve as a barometer for world cultural heritage to remind the delegates of the pivotal role that youth plays in understanding cultural heritage," said Denpasar Mayor Ida Bagus Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra, accompanied by his deputy, IGN Jaya Negara, during the event.

The strategic conference, OWHC Asia-Pacific, was opened by YB Satya Sana Nugraha, the secretary for the coordinating human development and cultural affairs minister, along with the director general of UNESCO's International Information and Networking Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, Dr. Kwon Huh. Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika also attended the conference.

In Indonesia, only Surakarta and Denpasar are member cities of the OWHC. In the previous era of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's leadership of Surakarta, Central Java, he once hosted the OWHC in the city.

"It is not easy to become a member of the OWHC because verification is required. We became a member of the OWHC in 2013 when Pak Jokowi was the mayor. Once he also hosted the Asia-Pacific conference," explained Rai Mantra, a son of former Bali governor IB Mantra.

The OWHC is an association of cities, regions and parties that have a commitment to preserving their respective cultural heritages. To date, as many as 298 cities in the world have become members of the OWHC, of which 41 from nine countries attended the OWHC Asia-Pacific conference in Denpasar.

The opening of the conference was also enlivened by several programs, including a heritage-themed exhibition of photos, paintings and caricatures, as well as cultural performances. In attendance were also several heads of regions in Bali and Indonesia, which are included in the Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Network. The conference was held from August 7 to 10.

The OWHC conference in Denpasar recommended that parties or communities in the respective regions, particularly young people, should be involved in dealing with cultural heritage issues. Appreciation of the existing heritage of Denpasar, Rai Mantra said, had increased, along with worries as well. "But at the same time, these have led us to keep attempting to run any necessary action program in order to minimize the unnecessary changes by embracing all communities, especially children and the younger generation, to jointly strengthen the role of culture in Denpasar City as an integral part of both traditional and formal life communities."

To activate the role of youth, the existence of sekehe teruna teruni as a traditional community in Denpasar and generally In Bali is being preserved. Meanwhile, in the formal sector, to accommodate the active role of youth in discussing issues pertaining to the culture of Denpasar, a youth cultural preservation group was formed five years ago. This youth group discusses the development of the relationship between youth and culture. The Rare Bali Festival or Balinese Kids Festival, a youth- oriented event, is held In Denpasar almost every year.

"We are aware that culture is not merely about arts, but it should also involve an introduction of culture to children at an early age through cultural reinforcement like the Bali Rare Festival in Denpasar," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kwon Huh explained that the strategic meeting constituted a golden opportunity for sharing issues, which could then be followed by the sharing of strategies to face heritage problems in the respective countries. "We are sharing how we preserve heritage. In this world, only a few local governments care about how to preserve heritage," he said.

Source: ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA)