PROCULTHER-NET, Protecting Cultural Heritage from the Consequences of Disasters-Network, is an initiative co-funded by the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations-DG ECHO in the framework of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism – UCPM that aims at consolidating a thematic community focused on the protection of cultural heritage at risk of disaster within the EU Civil Protection Knowledge Network – KN and at fostering multidisciplinary and risk-based exchange practices to support and complement the efforts made by the European Union in the field of civil protection.
Launched in January 2022, PROCULTHER-NET will be implemented until June 2023 under the coordination of the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers – Civil Protection Department (Italy) by the International Centre for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property- ICCROM, the Ministry of Interior-Disaster and Emergency Management Authority – AFAD (Turkey), the German Archaeological Institute – DAI (Germany), the Ministére de l’Intérieur – Direction Générale de la Sécurité Civile et de la Gestion des Crises–DGSCGC (France), the Fondazione Hallgarten – Franchetti Centro Studi Villa Montesca-FCSVM, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Region Government of Castilla y León – JCyL (Spain), the Federal Agency for Technical Relief – THW (Germany), the Suor Orsola Benincasa University – UNISOB (Italy) and the University of Porto – UPORTO (Portugal).
The impact of natural and anthropic hazards on cultural heritage, exacerbated by the increasing effects of climate change and recently by the COVID-19 pandemic, is endangering and making cultural heritage more fragile, increasing the underlying disaster risk drivers. The Notre-Dame of Paris fire in 2019, the explosion in the Port of Beirut and the Izmir earthquake in 2020, the wildfire that devastated the Jagger Library of the University of Cape Town in 2021, the impact of the Russian invasion on Ukrainian cultural heritage, are only some of the most meaningful disastrous events stressing the urgency of increasing interoperability standards for the inclusion of cultural heritage protection within the operational structures of the UCPM.
In the last years, many steps forward have been made to identify common European elements of action and to draw shared technical and operational approaches to sustainably include the protection of cultural heritage in disaster risk management processes at national and European level. In particular, a part from the context of increasing natural and man-made risks, the PROMEDHE (2016 – 2018) and the PROCULTHER projects (2019 – 2021) have demonstrated the increasing need of encouraging cross sectoral cooperation among disaster risk managers, cultural heritage actors and knowledge holders to reduce risk of disaster.
Meanwhile, the PROCULTHER Consortium Partners (1) worked proactively in a process involving cultural heritage and disaster risk management actors from European Union Member States and UCPM Participating States as well as experts from international organisations active in both cultural heritage and disaster risk management. This consultative process has allowed, among other actions, to identify the “Key elements of a European Methodology to Address the Protection of Cultural Heritage during Emergencies” and to the elaboration of the minimum requirements of a UCPM-driven response module able to intervene and support national response actions worldwide for the protection of cultural heritage at risk.
In this sense, PROCULTHER-NET, eager to consolidate the results achieved so far, will draw on the extensive network of contacts and technical and operational content built up through the PROCULTHER project for ensuring a sustainable and comprehensive network-based exchange on issues that can increase the eﬀiciency and eﬀectiveness of civil protection and disaster risk management actions, as well as to inform decision makers and advocate for the inclusion of cultural heritage in disaster risk management processes at each territorial level.
To this end, PROCULTHER-NET will enlarge the thematic community focused on the protection of cultural heritage at risk of disaster and share knowledge, lessons learnt and best practices with a multi-risk approach to inform the KN. Read the first issue of the PROCULTHER-NET Newsletter, and find out more on the project.
Laying the Foundations of a Cultural Heritage Protection Community
The PROCULTHER-NET Consortium is launching a questionnaire to facilitate the identiﬁcation of the contents and processes on which to build the experience of a cultural heritage protection community within the Knowledge Network.
The questionnaire, elaborated by the Suor Orsola Benincasa University – UNISOB in close cooperation with the other PROCULTHER-NET Partners, was circulated to the diﬀerent contact points of the UCPM Member and Participating States, as well as to other relevant actors active in the ﬁeld of cultural heritage protection. However, to guarantee that full feedback – both in the ﬁeld of disaster risk management and cultural heritage protection – are reﬂected and represented within the KN, the target audience of the questionnaire aims at a broader public to include the involvement of civil protection/disaster risk management authorities and the main cultural aﬀairs actor (e.g., Ministry of Culture/Cultural Aﬀairs). At the same time, for a consistent and comprehensive identiﬁcation of new actors and stakeholders, all interested actors (universities, regions, municipalities, NGOs, etc.) having case studies to share at European level and interested in participating in the KN are free to fill in the questionnaire. Around 60 questions will address speciﬁc topics taking in consideration tools, methods, procedures related to the following elements:
- Prevention, all those activities and measures to avoid existing and new disaster risks,
- Preparedness, that is the knowledge and capacities developed by governments, response and recovery organizations, communities and individuals to eﬀectively anticipate, respond to and recover from the impacts of likely, imminent or current disasters,
- Response, the actions taken directly before, during or immediately after a disaster in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people aﬀected,
- EU Civil Protection Knowledge Network and Thematic Community.
The questionnaire will facilitate stakeholder mapping and will help to collect information and feedback on legal frameworks, policies and planning, the role and involvement of the scientiﬁc community and technical resources, international exchanges and support, tools and resources to ensure the protection of cultural heritage assets, training programmes and exercises, including communication to the public on cultural heritage protection.
Furthermore, all participants are strongly encouraged to provide any comment or suggestion on criteria and elements that can serve to build a sustainable and eﬀective cultural heritage protection focused thematic community within the KN.
Questionnaire findings will merge in the PROCULTHER-NET ex-ante feasibility study that will guide project activities for the months to come as it is aimed at collecting information on 3 fundamental ﬁelds:
- Interests and needs existing at European level to ensure the inclusion of the protection of cultural heritage at risk of disaster in disaster risk management.
- Capacities, as well as best practices and lessons learnt existing at European level to ensure the inclusion of the protection of cultural heritage in disaster risk management processes.
- Stakeholder mapping relevant for the objectives of the project, including civil protection and cultural heritage authorities, academia/scientiﬁc centers as well as international and humanitarian organizations.
Are you ready to lay the foundations of the Cultural Heritage protection community within the KN? If you prefer to read all the questions to prepare your answers, click here to access its consultable version. To fill in the questionnaire by 20 July 2022, scan de QR code available in the questionnaire cover.
A shared tool for an effective resilience of disaster-prone cultural heritage
Recognizing that the urgency of taking adequate measures towards the preservation and protection of cultural heritage from natural and man-made hazards has considerably increased due to the growing effects of climate change, rapid urbanization and more recently the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, from 2019 to 2021, PROCULTHER has advocated for a paradigm shift on the importance of including cultural heritage protection in the disaster risk management process through the definition of common technical and operational languages, tools, standard operating procedures at national and European level with the overall purpose of strengthening technical and operational capacities through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism – UCPM. All this has been consolidated through the elaboration of the document: “Key Elements of a European Methodology to Address the Protection of Cultural Heritage during Emergencies”. This Methodology, built on lessons learnt and best practices of the project Consortium Partners, provides for a set of elements to advance preparedness and response activities with the purpose of including cultural heritage safeguard in all disaster risk management processes.
The inclusive consultation process that brought to the drafting of the Methodology started with the establishment of national working groups in each partner country, involving all public and private stakeholders in charge of the safeguard of cultural heritage in emergency management, with the scope of collecting, in a participatory and comparable way, all the resources and practices that the project partners are ready to deploy in case of an emergency abroad to protect cultural heritage at risk of disaster.
In December 2019, the main findings emerging from this joint consultation were shared at international level with experts coming from Civil Protection Authorities and Ministries of Culture of the PROCULTHER Partner countries, UNESCO-Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, ICCROM and Villa Montesca, who were called to identify the weak points to be strengthen by each project partner to improve national capacities in the field of Cultural Heritage protection so as to define the key elements for the elaboration of the Methodology.
Successively, the Partners’ advocacy actions – mainly addressed to EU Member States and UCPM Participating States – went beyond the borders expected thanks to the implementation, in June 2021, of the virtual international workshop “Defining European Technical and Operational Capacities for the Protection of Cultural Heritage at Risk of Disaster”. This event allowed to gain a perspective on the activities undertaken by extra-project stakeholders on the protection of cultural heritage at risk of disaster, and gather more elements for the revision of the document with the nearly 100 experts from over 30 countries (including 18 EU Member States (2) and 4 UCPM Participating States, Argentina, the Caribbean region, Israel, Mexico, Palestine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America), and the 16 speakers from civil protection authorities, ministries, governmental and research institutions including the European Commission Directorates DG ECHO, DG EAC and international organisations, such as UNESCO and ICCROM that attended this workshop.
In this sense, the Methodology, relying on a common and shared understanding of the subject at European level, aims at providing key operational and technical elements to address cultural heritage at risk of disaster, offering an overview of the main actions that should be taken into particular account to advance preparedness and response activities for the inclusion of cultural heritage safeguard in disaster risk management processes at both national and European level. Many structural, technical and operational aspects on how to enhance the protection of cultural heritage at risk of disaster at each territorial level have been explored in order to produce a document which concisely points out the elements that are crucial in disaster risk management operations: from the existing institutional framework to the inclusion of cultural heritage in planning processes, from the needed coordination structure and supporting team to the tools and data management system in support of the experts deployed on the field, as well as training sessions and exercises focused on the protection of cultural heritage at risk. In order to provide for specific references and further analysis, the document also reports ten case studies on the practices already developed by the PROCULTHER partners in terms of institutional framework, planning, coordinated structure and teams. Finally, it concludes the actions to be undertaken to achieve an effective protection of cultural heritage at risk of disaster.
It is worth mentioning that the contents of the Methodology were also tested through the implementation of the Virtual International Training Module on the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Emergency organized in November 2021. Actually, the purpose of this event was twofold: it allowed to test the module following the training programme proposed by the Methodology, and to provide PROCULTHER Partners and stakeholders with the opportunity for its further improvement and deeper analysis, thanks to the feedback and insights by about 40 disaster risk management and cultural heritage experts, coming from 15 different UCPM Member and Participating States, that took part in the training and discussion-based exercise dealing with cultural heritage protection that closed the event.
The elaboration of the “Key Elements of a European Methodology to Address the Protection of Cultural Heritage during Emergencies” has paved the way for a new era for the enhancement of the European capacities for protecting cultural heritage at risk of disaster. With the closure of PROCULTHER, the project Partners’ job is not finished; until 2023, PROCULTHER-NET will consolidate its technical and operational approach, allowing the transition from theory to practice and ensuring adequate learning processes through the creation of a dedicated thematic community within the European Union Civil Protection Knowledge Network- KN. Consequently, the Methodology, precisely because of the approach adopted by those who drafted it and as a result of the inclusive process of confrontation through which it was drawn up, is intended as a living working tool, tested in the field and adapted to contingencies, and finally enhanced by the contributions from disaster risk managers and cultural heritage protection experts eager to join and consolidate the PROCULTHER-NET Community established within the KN.
In addition, PROCULTHER and PROCULTHER-NET will be among the exhibitors at the 7th European Civil Protection Forum (see the article “From PROCULTHER to PROCULTHER-NET: European Capacities for Protecting Cultural Heritage at Risk of Disaster at the 7th European Civil Protection Forum”) – to take place in Brussels on 28 and 29 June 2022 – to promote the consolidation of a thematic community focused on cultural heritage protection within the KN: disaster risk management authorities, cultural heritage protection institutions, academics, researchers, humanitarian actors and knowledge holders from UCPM Member and Participating States and third Countries will have the chance to personally meet experts who have participated in the development of the Methodology and join the PROCULTHER-NET Community, so as to contribute to the efforts of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism to include cultural heritage protection in the disaster risk management process in order to sustainably increase the resilience of our society.
(1) The Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers – Civil Protection Department (Italy), as Consortium coordinator, the Ministére de l’Intérieur – Direction Générale de la Sécurité Civile et de la Gestion des Crises – DGSCGC (France), the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Regional Government of Castilla y León (Spain), the Ministry of Interior-Disaster and Emergency Management Authority – AFAD (Turkey), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property – ICCROM and the Fondazione Hallgarten – Franchetti Centro Studi Villa Montesca- FCSVM, with the participation of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe.\
(2) In the workshop intervened the following European Member States/UCPM participating States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, Montenegro, Norway and Serbia.