27.02.2014 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

“Theatre on the Edge Festival” - The power of the Arts and Music in Addressing Three Dimensions of Disaster Management

©UNESCO Jakarta/Mr. Gijzen

Bohol, February 24, 2014. Mr. Hubert Gijzen, Director of UNESCO Regional Science Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Tobias Biancone, Secretary General of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), and 25 Asian theatre practitioners joined over 100 Filipino artists in a healing mission to earthquake survivors in Bohol. The events included performances and “An Asia Pacific Forum and Cultural Caregiving Workshop.”

The Bohol event was co-organized by the UNESCO Dream Centre and the Earthsavers Academy, a UNESCO Artist for Peace, led by Dr. Cecile Guidote Alvarez, the Bohol Government, the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) of the Philippines, and Save the Children. Through an intervention based on theater and the arts, the event aimed to help victims of the earthquake in Bohol overcome their trauma. The event is part of the effort of UNESCO to support disaster risk reduction and recovery in the context of global climate change and extreme events.

The ultimate goal of this event was to develop a model that can be rolled out to allow the children and communities in calamity areas to creatively release their trauma as a starting point for teachers and the communities to get to the children and then motivate them to express, Save the Children representatives said.

Mr. Gijzen saw, with the Theatre on the Edge Festival, that the “building back better” slogan of the Government was not only relevant to the infrastructure and building standards, but also to the ‘software’, to the society at large. The performers and artists showcased the power of culture, the power of arts and music, which can be applied in so many areas. Via this Theatre on the Edge Festival the performers and artists focused on the specific theme of natural disasters and Mr. Gijzen recognized at least three key functions:

  • To raise awareness on the origins and causes of natural disasters.
  • To contribute to community preparedness, so that we know how to respond when disaster strikes.
  • To mobilize arts for healing of trauma inflicted by natural disasters


Mr. Gijzen personally learned also something else, namely that the performing arts and music is a very powerful way of conveying complex messages.  He said “the power of words indeed is strong, and if words are chosen right, the message goes straight to our head. But arts is much more powerful, because the message goes straight to the heart”.

Download Director General's message here
Download Mr. Gijzen’s speech here




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