With the support of the Japan Foundation, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts (SEAMEO SPAFA) organized the “International Conference on Cultural Heritage and Disaster Risk Reduction” in Bangkok, Thailand, on 18-20 November 2013, as a continuation of the organization’s efforts to highlight the need to undertake and implement Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) plans to the cultural heritage of Southeast Asia. In addition to formulating recommendations for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Post-2015 Framework for Action for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Asia-Pacific Region, this conference brought together approximately 80 Southeast Asian, Japanese, and other international researchers and professionals from across the globe working in various fields (geology, engineering, geography, architecture, library, cultural heritage, museums, etc.) for the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage, as well as interested individuals working in the area of disaster risk reduction. Furthermore, SEAMEO SPAFA used this conference as an opportunity to raise funds for the Philippines, which was hit by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda on 8 November 2013.
The Conference is intended to provide updated clear information on the link between climate change and cultural heritage as well as practical steps that can be taken to alleviate negative impacts. In addition, while it is acknowledged that climate change is a major issue that impacts negatively on the environment and has subsequent consequences in relation to increased flooding, drought, rising temperatures, energy supplies, food supplies, social structures including migration, lack of resources leading to increased conflict, poverty, and other social ills; rarely is the impact of climate change on cultural heritage- both tangible and intangible- addressed. This Conference aims to make explicit the link between climate change and the threat it poses to cultural heritage and to highlight the importance of adopting disaster risk reduction strategies. Moreover, without disaster risk reduction strategies in place, sustainable development is greatly affected.
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention. Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. It could be said that disaster risk reduction is about choices. Disasters often follow natural hazards and a disaster’s severity depends on how much impact a hazard has on society and the environment. The scale of the impact in turn depends on the choices we make for our lives and for our environment. In other words, how prepared are we. Each decision and action taken can either make us more vulnerable to disasters or more resilient to them.
- Share and exchange detailed information amongst participants on their experiences in the major disasters in East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia between 2004 and 2011, especially the impact on cultural heritage, and the response and recovery actions being taken by them, especially in relation to climate change mitigation, alleviation, and adaptation for disaster preparedness in the area of cultural heritage. Best practices will be identified and adapted where appropriate.
- Facilitate beneficial collaboration and strengthen links between Japanese and Southeast Asian professionals through the direct sharing of information on disaster risk reduction activities vis-à-vis cultural heritage protection
- Promote a sense of social awareness, responsibility and leadership to bring about more sustainable development outcomes through the planning of appropriate measures in flooding disaster preparedness and response in relation to documentary and tangible heritage.
- Publish a handbook or guideline of best practices adopted by individuals, institutions including museums, libraries, places of worship, schools etc., and local communities
- Engage a wider public on the issue of disaster risk reduction for cultural heritage.
In addition to formulating recommendations for the UNISDR Post-2015 Framework for Action for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Asia-Pacific Region, this conference brought together researchers and professionals from various fields (geology, engineering, geography, architecture, library, cultural heritage, museums, etc.) in order to exchange experiences and ideas on cultural heritage and disaster risk reduction. At the end of the conference, participants expressed their enthusiasm and their desire for SEAMEO SPAFA to organize this conference on a regular (annual or biannual) basis. Furthermore, SEAMEO SPAFA used this conference as an opportunity to raise funds for the Philippines, which was hit by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda on 8 November 2013.