Moderating the Featured Event on Heritage and Resilience at the 2013 UN Global Platform in Geneva earlier this year truly brought home to me that more must be done to bring together a multitude of seemingly disparate groups to reduce the effects of disasters on the world’s most precious historic sites.
In fact, heritage is so inextricably enmeshed in the overall resilience of nations, communities, businesses and individuals, that it might seem surprising we still need to discuss how best to put the subject in its rightful place on the international agenda.
Sites of historic interest – whether they be buildings, parks, monuments or sacred places – are irreplaceable. But they are also evolving dynamic entities, and the people who live in them rely upon them for their livelihoods.
Sustainability is vital. Heritage is not just a passive concept to be protected, but an active resource that can be mobilised and integrated into a risk reduction strategy, a fact emphasised by participants and speakers.
Yet the task ahead is daunting. Time does not stand still and we face a range of threats and hazards, many of which are on a scale that our forebears simply could not imagine, accelerated by climate disruption or through advances in technology or weaponry. All this is underpinned by the fact that there are more human beings on the planet than ever before, and urbanisation is encroaching areas previously considered as being unsuitable for safe settlement.
On the positive side, our ancestors did not have the technology, predictive capabilities or communications systems we have today.
Under these circumstances, the way forward has to be through the commitment, understanding and genuine collaboration of multiple stakeholders – as suggested in the Heritage and Resilience background paper prepared for the Global Platform, which we will feature in our next issue.