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Disaster Preparation in the Middle of a Disaster

May 1, 2020

Since we are living it, we are taking a moment today to look at resilience and recovery. No matter the current situation, historic places and collections will play a critical role in recovery.

In 2018, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and The World Bank jointly published the position paper, Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery. The proposed CURE Framework emphasizes the need to integrate people-centered and place-based strategies and policies with culture as the foundation in order to achieve sustainable change.

“From cultural heritage to cultural and creative industries, from sustainable tourism to cultural institutions, culture enables and drives the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of sustainable development. It is a crucial factor for social cohesion and poverty alleviation and supports issues such as education, urban development and gender equality to enable the full achievement of development outcomes. It has become clear that culture can no longer be a dividend of development, but is rather a prerequisite to its achievement” (pg 17).

Integrating culture into all phases of recovery from planning to implementation strengthens the community’s sense of belonging and livability of the environment. Broad inclusion of culture of the entire community can strengthen community ownership and address long standing inequities. The scope of the framework encompasses the entire city, not just the historic areas, so that all aspects of the city’s culture can be incorporated.

The following principles apply to cities and towns of all sizes using the CURE Framework.

Principle 1. Acknowledging the city as a “cultural construct” where built structures and open spaces are closely linked to the social fabric.

Principle 2. Starting the reconciliation process with the (re)construction of cultural landmarks and places of significance to local communities.

Principle 3. Fostering cultural expressions to offer appropriate ways to deal with post-crisis trauma and reconcile affected communities.

Principle 4. Prioritizing culture early in the planning process, starting with needs assessments and the implementation of emergency interventions that reflect community priorities.

Principle 5. Engaging communities and local governments in every step of the recovery process.

Principle 6. Using finance models that balance immediate/short-term needs with the medium/long-term development time frame of reconstruction plans.

Principle 7. Ensuring effective management of the reconstruction process by striking a balance between people’s needs and the recovery of a city’s historic character.

This approach requires raising awareness of the value of culture and encouraging the integration of cultural heritage, creativity, and diversity of cultural expressions into disaster resiliency strategies. Heritage plays a powerful role in identity and dignity through a community’s landmarks, historic collections, and intangible heritage.  

Oregon’s historic properties and downtowns and heritage organizations are necessary for full people-centered crisis recovery in every community. They should be included in all needs assessments, recovery strategy and policy planning, funding, and implementation for this and future recovery efforts.

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