The World Heritage Centre took part in a Conference organized by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR) and the Municipality of Venice on "Building Cities Resilience to Disasters in Europe: Protecting Cultural Heritage and Adapting to Climate Change" (Venice, 19-20 March 2012).
Part of the international campaign called "Making my City Resilient - My City is Getting Ready!" the Conference focused on the specific theme of heritage protection from disasters. Attended by Ms Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risks, the event gathered a number of City Mayors and administrators, heritage experts as well as Disaster managers, insurers and representatives of UN HABITAT and the Council of Europe. It provided an opportunity to sensitize city administrators about the issue of DRR, particularly in relation to cultural heritage, and share experiences. A particular focus was placed on Venice as a case-study, and on the specific measures under way to mitigate disaster risks.
The World Heritage Centre contributed with a presentation providing its perspective on the protection of cultural heritage from disasters as well as an overview of UNESCO's approach and ongoing initiatives.
At the end of the Conference, a “Venice Declaration” was approved. This recognizes the increasing risks posed to historic urban heritage by disasters; the contribution that a well-maintained historic environment can make to reducing disaster risks (for example through traditional building technologies that have proved to be resistant to hazards and sustainable land uses); and the need to support the integration of heritage concerns into national and local disaster risk reduction policies and plans while, at the same time, ensure that disaster risks are taken into consideration within management plans and systems for heritage properties in their territories, notably for World Heritage Cities.
The Venice Declaration is a very positive step forward to mainstream a concern for heritage in disaster risk policies and practices of cities worldwide. The World Heritage Centre is ready to work in partnership with global actors in Disaster Risk Reduction, such as UN-ISDR, to assist Cities in strengthening their resilience and better protect their heritage from disaster risks.