Professionals from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia are the beneficiaries of the sub-regional workshop on “Managing Disaster Risks in UNESCO Designated Sites” that will take place in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 10-13 October 2016. The event is organised by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), in support of the World Heritage Convention, in cooperation with the National Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina for UNESCO and the City of Mostar.

Of great concern to the international community, natural hazards draw attention to the impending threats that may affect our life and shared cultural and natural heritage. While most disasters cannot be prevented, preparatory measures can mitigate or effectively reduce their impacts and risk preparedness can contain expenses during the recovery phase. Heritage can likewise contribute to reducing the impacts of disasters.

Improving the management of risks for designated sites - properties inscribed on the World Heritage List and Biosphere Reserves - is necessary to attempt preventing and reducing damage from disasters and to preserve their cultural and natural values, thus protecting an essential support for the social and economic well-being of their communities.

Policies and practical measures have been developed to address these challenges. The Strategy for Risk Reduction at World Heritage Properties approved in 2007 by the World Heritage Committee encourages all States Parties to develop disaster risk management plans for the World Heritage properties in their respective countries. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 emphasizes the importance of reducing disaster risk in cultural and natural heritage sites.

In 2014 and 2016, several countries of South-East Europe and Italy were devastated by severe floods, earthquakes and other natural and manmade disasters, that caused loss of lives and enormous economic damages to the affected countries. Awareness was raised of the need to strengthen disaster risk preparedness, in general terms but also in relation to management of cultural and natural heritage. Disaster risk management is however still at a preliminary stage among heritage site managers and governance bodies, although the region has a high level of exposure to various hazards.

The workshop in Mostar follows previous workshops focusing on the same theme at regional or national levels (Sofia 2014; La Valetta, 2015; Sighisoara, 2015). It targets UNESCO designated sites from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia with a view to introducing disaster risk reduction principles in site management plans and improving cooperation between site managers and civil protection authorities. Special attention will be drawn to the necessary legal, institutional and policy framework adjustments, to enable the application of disaster risk reduction principles within the concerned sites.

The objective of the workshop is, first, to raise the awareness and understanding among relevant stakeholders of the principles of disaster risk management; and, secondly, to build stakeholders’ capacities to elaborate and integrate risk management plans in the governance of their designated sites.

The workshop will include representatives from the 3 beneficiary countries of site managing bodies of World Heritage properties and Biosphere Reserves; representatives of relevant emergency responders and civil protection agencies, at both local and central levels; national focal points for World Heritage and the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB); and, other relevant stakeholders.

The workshop will apply a participatory methodology based on the World Heritage Resource Manual Managing Disaster Risks for World Heritage (2010). Special focus will be devoted to geohazards risk preparedness, with emphasis on landslides, seismic events, floods and wild fires, through the participation of an international team of experts.

The workshop will provide participants with knowledge on current thinking, methods and tools available for the identification, assessment and management of multiple natural-derived risks and preparatory measures to mitigate their impact and damages both at human and material levels in the designated sites. During in-class and on-site exercises, participants will use the World Heritage property “Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar” as a case study for teamwork. The workshop will close with the presentation of agreed priorities for future action.