Second workshop on Disaster Risk Management for World Heritage in the Caribbean comes to an end
From 13 to 17 May, at the World Heritage Site of Old Havana and its fortification system, the Second Workshop on Disaster Risk Management for World Heritage in the Caribbean was held, organized by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean in the framework of the Caribbean Capacity Building Programme (CCBP) for World Heritage and funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands, cosponsored by the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and with the support of the LATAM programme for Latin America and the Caribbean of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).
During the inaugural session, Fernando Brugman, Coordinator of the UNESCO Culture Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean in Havana, delivered the opening address. Also present at the ceremony were Gladys Collazo, president of the National Council for Cultural Heritage of Cuba (CNPC), and Alicia González, Permanent Secretary of the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO.
The workshop brought together 35 participants from Aruba, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and Dr. Orestes del Castillo, member of the International Scientific Committee for Analysis and Restoration of Structures of Architectural Heritage (ISCARSAH) and Professor Willem Willems, president of the International Scientific Committee for Archaeological Heritage Management (ISCAHM), both representing ICOMOS, as well as Eng. Mario Omar Fernández, for ICCROM’s LATAM Programme. Also present at the workshop were two experts on World Heritage from the Deputy-Ministry for Heritage of Guatemala and the director of the Oil Paintings Laboratory of Chile’s Conservation Centre, who will be heading the next LATAM course. Participants discussed the topic at length during the five days of sessions and practical visits that formed part of their full and broad agenda.
In developing the workshop, CCBP module 3 and the World Heritage Resource Manual, published by the UNESCO World Heritage Council, were used. Aside from interesting presentations and debates by the participants, the programme also included on-site technical visits, and encounters at the Cuban National Institute of Meteorology and the headquarters of the National Civil Defence that were held immediately after the workshop, coinciding with their yearly exercise in preparation for the hurricane season.
The meeting also constituted an enabling environment for organizing a panel on the work of the United Nations Emergency Team (UNETE), where the UNICEF Deputy Director in Cuba and a representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) explained the procedures and results obtained, especially in the creation of disaster risk management centres, an experience that supports local management and is now being extended to other sites in Cuba and the region.
It was interesting to learn the viewpoints of both educators and communicators on risk management. Particularly noteworthy was the encounter with Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, Historian of the City of Havana, who gave a dissertation on the relationship between heritage and risks, and the importance of preparedness. Dr. Leal referred to their experience in Old Havana in this respect and the newly created Network of Offices of the Historian and of the Conserver of Heritage Cities in Cuba, which he heads, and he also answered questions from the participants.
On the last day of the workshop, the participants visited the Viñales Valley World Heritage Site, where they were welcomed by the local authorities. During the tour of the Valley, they went to a Risk Management Centre and were able to talk at length with farmers who had experienced the effects of hurricanes in the area and had found local solutions, which involved rebuilding with their own means one of the houses of vernacular architecture destroyed by the storms that struck the region in 2008 and whose management earned them the National Conservation Award in 2012. The experts also visited the Municipal Museum as part of the activities carried out in Cuba in honour of Farmers’ Day and the International Day of Museums.
The workshop made it possible to share many of the current problems in disaster and cultural heritage risk management, among them the actual lack of knowledge with regard to heritage threats and vulnerabilities, as well as procedures and actions to reduce and manage the effects of catastrophes. An important result of the event was to show that the corresponding organizations in different countries of the region do not have the knowledge or the experience needed to protect the heritage. The activity also focused on climate change, its global impact and its effect on World Heritage sites. The participants proposed the creation of a work network intended to establish synergy with civil protection entities in their respective countries, and support the updating of management plans in heritage sites.
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