Heritage and Resilience

Date & Time:
Wednesday 22 May (11:15-12:45)

Room 4


UNESCO/ICOMOS-ICORP/ICCROM ICOMOS: International Council on Monuments and Sites ICORP: International Committee on Risk Preparedness ICCROM: International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

Focal Point:
Mr Giovanni Boccardi, UNESCO
Mr Rohit Jigyasu, ICORP
Mr Joseph King, ICCROM
Mr Glenn Dolcemascolo, UNISDR (dolcemascolo@un.org)


The adverse impacts of the growing number of natural and man-made disasters on communities have tragic consequences, from loss of lives to property damage and disruption of social and economic structures. Not surprisingly, a lot of effort and resources has gone into mitigating the risks associated to these events by various international organizations.

The deterioration of historic properties and cultural heritage sites, which are increasingly affected by disaster, is an often neglected aspect of this problem. This goes beyond the purely physical damage caused and extends to an unquantifiable loss to societies that is often ignored or loosely addressed.

The destruction of heritage may negatively impact on people, both because of its cultural significance - as a source of information on the past and a symbol of identity, community pride and a sense of belonging - as well as for its wider socio-economic value to communities, including in relation to tourism.

Heritage, however, is not just a liability or passive ‘victim’ in the face of disasters, at a time when attention should be devoted as a priority to saving lives and properties. It is also an essential resource that contributes to strengthening the resilience of communities, both before and after a disaster has occurred. Heritage can be a support for social connections.

Indeed, a well maintained and living historic environment, (including built heritage and cultural landscapes), is likely to be very resilient to natural phenomena such as earthquakes or extreme weather events because it incorporates traditional knowledge accumulated over centuries of adaptation to the environment. In 2005, a great number of traditional buildings managed to withstand a terrible earthquake in Kashmir, saving the lives of their inhabitants while, conversely, reinforced concrete buildings which were not adequate collapsed completely in the same affected areas, killing everyone inside. When integrated into modern disaster risk management schemes, traditional management techniques based on local capacities have proven to be efficient and cost-effective tools to mitigate environmental risks, including from climate change, reduce vulnerability and reinforce the resilience of communities and for a real sustainable heritage development. There are key lessons for implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action and its successor.

As natural disasters and conflicts rip apart societies, the endurance of historic landmarks, together with the associated beliefs, values and practices, and their transmission across generations, have become significant concerns. Projects carried out in Haiti, for example, have found that the vibrant local culture plays an important part in rebuilding a sense of community after disasters and is a key asset for strengthening resilience.

Despite the above, heritage is still not given sufficient consideration in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation strategies at national and local levels. Conversely, very few heritage properties, including those included in the World Heritage List, have developed appropriate disaster risk management plans and procedures. The two sectors, moreover, are still largely unaware of each other and of the need to work together.

It is very important, therefore, to use the opportunity offered at the 2013 Global Platform to raise the awareness of those responsible for disaster risk management and to invite responsible for heritage management of the importance of integrating heritage concerns in their policies and programmes, both for its intrinsic value and because of its major role in supporting the resilience of communities.

Session Objectives

To raise awareness the potential of heritage as an asset for building resilient communities.

To reduce the impact of disasters to cultural heritage resources from natural and man-made hazards.

To establish a greater understanding of the relationship between a well-conserved heritage and the resilience of societies and of the potential for integrating heritage within the context of the post-2015 development agenda; including in a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction (HFA2).

To integrate heritage in disaster mitigation plans focusing on prevention and preparedness, rather than post disaster response and recovery.

Discussion agenda and structure

The Session will be organized as a panel discussion, with a moderator and questions and answers from the floor. Members of the panel from Governments (both national and local), Development Banks, UN Agencies, NGOs and others.

1. Welcome by the moderator (5min).

2. A video on the restoration of a painting after the Haiti earthquake: “Le serment des ancêtres”. (tbc)

3. Four presentations from members of the Panel on in-country experiences regarding cultural heritage resources following a disaster. (55min)

4. Open floor for questions, answers, discussion. (20 min)

5. Moderator to summarize the main themes and recommendations on next steps. (5 min)

Relevance of the initiative

Cultural heritage and disaster risk reduction identified in 2009 Global Platform as an area to follow up in 2013 and beyond. Cultural heritage sites are often at the “frontline” of risk reduction practices.

Subject’s link to post 2015

By demonstrating and articulating the contribution of a well-conserved heritage to strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of disasters and climate change, the session will provide arguments and suggestions for the integration of heritage concerns for post-2015 development agenda and the HFA2.

Other information

News items will be regularly published on the Global Platform homepage at:

Expected Outcomes

- A background document setting the context for the session, to be prepared by ICOMOS/ICORP in consultation with ISDR, UNESCO and ICCROM, which will be distributed widely during the Global Platform.
- Identification of opportunities for cooperation between heritage organizations (e.g. UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICCROM) and partners involved in disaster risk management to advance the integration of the two sectors.

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