First Singaporean appointed to Unesco evaluation body

Mr Yeo Kirk Siang currently oversees the development national policies and initiatives to safeguard and promote Singapore's intangible cultural heritage. PHOTO: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD

SINGAPORE - A director from the National Heritage Board (NHB) is the first Singaporean to be appointed to Unesco's evaluation body, said the statutory board on Monday (Dec 21).

Mr Yeo Kirk Siang will serve a term of four years, starting Jan 1. His appointment by Unesco's 15th intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage was announced last Friday in Paris.

Mr Yeo, who is NHB's director of heritage research and assessment, will be part of the international panel of 12 members - six experts in fields of intangible cultural heritage from state parties and six representatives from non-governmental organisations accredited by Unesco.

The Unesco Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been around since 2003.

As a member of the evaluation body, Mr Yeo will screen and recommend nominations for Unesco's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices, as well as applications by state parties for international assistance of more than US$100,000 (S$133,000).

Mr Yeo, 41, has been part of NHB since Feb 1, 2011.

As project co-lead, he was instrumental in the inscription of Singapore's hawker culture on the Unesco's intangible cultural heritage list last Wednesday - the first for the country.

The list comprises over 460 entries, including yoga in India and Belgian beer.

The nomination took almost three years of work by the NHB, the National Environment Agency and the Federation of Merchants' Associations.

Mr Yeo currently oversees the development of national policies and initiatives to safeguard and promote Singapore's intangible cultural heritage, and to engage communities in the research and promotion of cultural heritage in Singapore.

These include the first nationwide intangible cultural heritage survey, intangible cultural heritage inventory and the Stewards of Singapore's Intangible Cultural Heritage Award which was first presented earlier this year.

Before joining the NHB, he helped craft policies and strategies for built environment and sustainable development at the Ministry of National Development.

Mr Yeo said: "I am very honoured to be elected as a member of the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage Evaluation Body... The successful election is a positive recognition of Singapore's efforts in the safeguarding of our intangible cultural heritage, and I look forward to contributing to the work of the evaluation body alongside cultural experts from around the world."

Chief executive officer of NHB Chang Hwee Nee said: "Kirk Siang has made invaluable contributions to Singapore's efforts to safeguard our intangible cultural heritage. He spearheads national-level policies and initiatives to raise awareness and participation in our living heritage. He also engages international and local stakeholders and practitioners in exchanges of experience, knowledge and ideas."

She added: "I look forward to him flying Singapore's flag high, as Singapore's and NHB's representative."

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