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Green solutions for Disaster Risk Reduction and climate change adaptation

Well-managed ecosystems – such as wetlands, forests, coastal systems and many others – often act as natural infrastructure, reducing physical exposure to various natural hazards and increasing socio-economic resilience of people and communities. Healthy ecosystems also provide many more services and goods, playing a role in water quality and availability, air quality, fodd security, and much more. Together with its partners, UNESCO advances the disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation agenda through the application of ecosystem services and nature based solutions.

Leading environmental international organizations, including the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and European Commission (OECD), gathered at UNESCo Headquarters to discuss this important topic on 27 February. Here, the advancement on the disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation agenda, in particular the implementation of ecosystem services and nature-based solutions, was shared with UNESCO’s Member States.

During the information session, panelists highlighted that every year disasters caused by natural hazards affect millions of people around the world. The resulting human losses are tragic and highlight the vulnerabilities shared by our societies. If no preventive and risk reduction measures are taken, these losses will continue to grow as a result of climate change-induced pressures, overpopulation and mass urbanization.

There is a common understanding between scientists and practitioners about benefits from green solutions for disaster risk reduction, fully taking advantage of nature-based solutions for disaster risk reduction can be challenging. International experts agreed that it is most important to both push the current boundary of science and technology and establish local actions for the acceptance and maintenance of nature-based solutions.

UNESCO collaborates with UNEP, IUCN, OECD, European Commission and the international expert community so that science and technology can serve to mitigate natural and human induced threats and reduce our vulnerability.
For example, together with major environmental international organizations – including UN Environment and IUCN– UNESCO is a member of the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR). PEDRR is a global alliance of UN agencies, NGOs and specialist institutes aiming to promote and upscale the implementation of ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and to ensure it is mainstreamed in development planning at global, national and local levels, while being in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

With this common goal in mind, UNESCO also joins forces with the European Commission. For instance, UNESCO is a leading partner of the work package on international cooperation and capacity building within an ongoing H2020 EU funded project “OPEn-air laboRAtories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manage environmental risks” (OPERANDUM). This project will deliver the tools and methodologies as well as validate NBS to enhance resilience in rural and natural territories through the reduction of hydro-meteorological risks while providing innovation and strategic plan for their up-scaling and replication.

Together with its partners, UNESCO will continue to advance on the disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation agenda thought activities of many UNESCO programmes and projects, ensuring that nature based solutions and ecosystem services for disaster risk reduction becomes a major pillar among overall disaster risk reduction actions.
Here below you may find presentations presented by speakers during the information session.

List of presentations

Participants of the session: Soichiro Yasukawa (UNESCO), Bjørn Kalsnes (NGI), Nicolas Faivre (EU), Giulio Zuccaro (University of Naples), Karen Sudmeier-Rieux (UN Environment), Irina Pavlova (UNESCO), Peter Dogsé (UNESCO), Kate Reilly (IUCN), Lisa Danielson (OECD), Federico Porcù (UniBo), Roxane Marchal (CCR group), Ainara Casajus (DRMKC, JRC)

What makes a good classroom? New UIS data on school conditions

New data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reveal serious disparities in the schooling conditions facing children and teachers – from access to electricity, clean drinking water and single sex-toilets to Internet access and computers.

Classroom conditions are key in providing a quality education for all. For children who struggle to enrol in school, for example due to poverty or discrimination on the grounds of gender or disability, poor school conditions can further undermine their chances of a quality education.

What are the new data looking at?

The UIS data reveal serious disparities in primary school conditions that, in turn, shed light on the global learning crisis that affects 617 million – or six out of ten – children and adolescents. The data cited below are for primary schools in 2017 (unless otherwise stated).  The areas covered are:

  1. Electricity
  2. Internet
  3. Computers
  4. Adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities
  5. Clean drinking water
  6. Single-sex toilets
  7. Basic handwashing facilities

How many primary schools have electricity?

Electricity is one of the most basic essentials for any school. Worldwide, an average of 69% of primary schools have power, falling to an average of around 34% for least developed countries. At the regional level, sub-Saharan Africa has the most limited access, at around 35%. Within the region, the lowest levels of access are found in Niger and Sierra Leone, where about 5% and 4% respectively of schools have electricity.

What is the status of internet access in primary schools?

Internet access in primary schools stands at just over 46% (2016) worldwide, falling to about 16% for LDCs, in stark contrast to the average for Northern America of more than 99%. The lowest percentages are found in Myanmar (0.2%) and Sierra Leone (0.3%). The data also reveal disparities between neighbouring countries, with access in Kyrgyzstan at around 42%, compared to more than 90% in Uzbekistan.

How many students have access to computers at school?

The global average is around 48% but hide an ever-widening and global digital divide, with entire populations of children missing out on tools that are not only vital but also seen as commonplace elsewhere. In the least developed countries, it falls to just over 23% while the averages for Northern America and Europe is well over 98%. Again, schools in Myanmar have little or no access to computers (about 1%) and Niger also faces serious challenges (just over 2%).

How many primary schools have adaptations for children with disabilities?

In general, such adaptations are limited. The rates vary considerably among some 40 countries with available data. Less than 5% of schools are equipped with adapted facilities for children with disabilities in some countries, including Burkina Faso, Cook Islands, Dominica, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Zambia. The rates range from about 17% to 30% in El Salvador, Latvia, Marshall Islands, Morocco, Peru and Rwanda, while countries with strong policies in place, such as Finland, have rates of 100%.   

How many students have access to clean drinking water?

While many of the countries that provide data report rates of 100%, the global average stands at 79%, constrained by the far lower averages for least developed countries (59%) and countries in sub-Saharan Africa (44% in 2016).

What is the situation of single-sex basic sanitation facilities?

Single-sex basic sanitation facilities can play a vital role in the creation of a safe and supportive school environment, particularly for girls. The global average of primary schools with single-sex toilets stands at around 82%, falling to 57% for least developed countries. A closer look at the national figures reveals a number of champions in developing regions, such as Azerbaijan, Cabo Verde, Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, Samoa and Sri Lanka – all with 80% or more of schools equipped with single-sex toilets. But there are concerns elsewhere, such as in Eritrea (27%) and Senegal (just 9%).

How many students can wash their hands at school?

Handwashing facilities are essential for the health of students and teachers alike. The data reveal significant disparities: globally, 66% of primary schools have handwashing facilities, but the average in LDCs is 43% and rates are very low in some countries, such as Afghanistan (4%) and Eritrea (3%).


About the UIS global education database

The UIS global education database provides the most comprehensive data set on education in the world. And it continues to expand. Most recently, country-level information has been added to provide a more complete and timely picture of the education situation facing children, youth and adults the world over. The data update spans all of our indicators – from pre-primary to tertiary education – and of course, the global and thematic indicators used to monitor progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4)

With the new data release, the UIS aims to ensure that all of UNESCO’s partners – including countries, donors, UN agencies, civil society groups and engaged citizens – have the latest available data to better direct policies and resources to reach every child. This is particularly timely in a year when progress towards SDG 4 will be under close scrutiny at the next High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2019.

8th World Summit On Arts & Culture | 11-14 March 2019 | KualaLumpur

The Summit explores and embraces the theme of Mobile Minds: Culture, Knowledge and Change.
Over the days of the Summit, delegates will identify global drivers of change, the issues and opportunities that arise from these forces, and their impact on the arts and culture sector; explore how creative practices respond to change, converge with its possibilities, interrogate its direction and actively diverge from its trajectory; and look at how we – as an international community – make tangible change for the future. Read more.

Fourth Chookolingo Memorial Lecture | 28 February 2019 | Varanasi

Fourth Dr Frank Chookolingo & Eva Maria Chookolingo Memorial Lecture 2019 is being organised by Department of History of Art Faculty of Arts, Banaras Hindu University on Thursday, 28 February 2019, at 03:00 PM at Mahayana Sabhagar, Malaviya Moolya Anushilan Kendra, BHU, Varanasi. The illustrated lecture is on “Amaravathi Heritage Town – old & new, the birth of an Indian Eco-museum” by Prof. Amareswar Galla, Chief Curator Amaravathi Heritage Center & Museum; Founder and Executive Director International Institute of Inclusive Museum.
For Poster click here.

Contours of India’s ‘Act East’ Policy | 18-19 Feb 2019 | Kolkata



Book of Abstracts, Kolkata Society for ASIAN Studies in collaboration with Indian Council for World Affairs, in association with Institute of Foreign Policy Studies & Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Calcutta is organising a Two-Day National Conference On Contours of India’s ‘Act East’ Policy: Opportunities, Challenges and Futuristic Trends of Indo-ASEAN Partnership at CSSH Auditorium, 10th Floor, Calcutta University, Alipore Campus. Detailed Program Schedule available here.

Cities facing Development and Preservation | 13-15 Feb 2019 | Vienna

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How do big cities react to the challenges posed by the preservation of their UNESCO world heritage and by dynamic urban development?

The Workshop and Conference is being organised in cooperation between the City of Vienna and the Organisation of World Heritage Cities OWHC from 13th – 15th Feb 2019 in Vienna City Hall. Detailed program Schedule attached here .

International Symposium – Creativity & Freedom |5-6 Feb 2019 | New Delhi



International symposium ‘Creativity And Freedom’, organised by Kolkata-based CIMA Gallery and Ashoka University, will feature a varied line-up of speakers, including academicians, filmmakers, museum directors, who will talk about “creative freedom, especially in today’s polarised climate”.

The two-day seminar is scheduled to be held on February 5-6 at the India International Centre here.

Symposium director and art historian Alka Pande said the symposium would bring together all realms of creativity, including fine arts, visual arts, cinema, literature, design as well as popular culture.

“Artists, thinkers, academics, designers and innovators need to regroup and work as incubators for fashioning and re-imagining a world order of inclusiveness.


Retaining Amaravati as an ancient town

Amaravathi Stupa in Guntur.

An opinion piece by Prof Amareswar Galla. Published in The Hindu newspaper September 15th 2015.

The organic, historical linkages between the ancient town and the surrounding villages should be developed.

India is on the cusp of a paradigm shift in the way its much-neglected heritage is to be conserved. The drought in funding has almost been broken with the launching of two new schemes by the Central Government: HRIDAY, focusing on heritage cities and PRASAD, enhancing pilgrimage destinations.

Added to this, if the Smart City initiatives can locate culture as an integral fourth pillar, along with social, economic and environmental sustainability, then we will genuinely leapfrog into the 21st Century practice of sustainable heritage development. However, it requires appropriate capacity building to facilitate transformation.

As a potential demonstration project, the ancient town of Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh offers a triangulation of possibilities. HRIDAY and PRASAD schemes are coupled with the announcement by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to name the new capital of the State as Amaravati. Juxtaposition of the old with the new could salvage the much-neglected heritage town from oblivion. But this is a double-edged sword. The investment in infrastructure will come as a breath of fresh air and the planned capital city offers prospects of better access and increased weekend visits to the ancient town. But real estate speculation and enhanced recreational spectrum need to be regulated to minimise negative impacts. At stake is the complexity of heritage, both tangible and intangible.

There are several factors that could help minimise the negative impacts. A local governance mechanism could ensure community cultural leadership and deliver benefits to the primary stakeholders. There are layers of history in Amaravati , often reduced to minimal details like dates, kings and dynasties, with focus on only in-situ heritage ‘relics’. In short, the layers of significance of the so-called Megalithic times of some 2600 years ago until now need to be shown, creating a contemporary understanding among both locals and outsiders, developing educational programmes and promoting experiential tourism.

All tourism is cultural. Even that which is natural is culturally perceived. The dichotomy of natural and cultural is a colonial legacy. In this context, heritage tourism is different as it uses non-renewable resources, both cultural and natural. Therefore, it requires responsible tourism development and must go beyond simple site visits to enable experiential visitation. The focus is no longer on the typical tourist. It is on visitors.

Visitors could be residents from the neighbourhood or the hinterland; school children and higher education students seeking a learning outcome; or domestic or international visitors paying for an Amaravati experience. An understanding of the demographics and psychographics of such target groups will assist the development of relevant experiences. Historical contextualisation of the heritage resources, informed by rigorous scholarship, openness to multiple interpretations of all forms of heritage and facilitating a plurality of visitor understandings, are essential for creating meaningful experiences in the revitalisation of Amaravati.

There are lessons to be learnt from other Asian countries that have demonstrated their own methods of safeguarding their diverse heritage against the backdrop of rapid economic growth. Hoi, an ancient town in central Vietnam, for example, is protected by the very people whose ancestors built the houses there in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The district of Hoi An [known in the ancient times as Faifo] was also called Amaravati between the 7th and 12th Centuries during the years of the Champa kingdom. The Homeowners Association in Hoi An ensures responsible and relevant infrastructure development. The Hoi An case study is exemplary for bringing together culture, health and well-being where valuing heritage informs all walks of life.

Coming from Amaravati and having worked in Hoi An Ancient Town, I advocate grounded and locally developed pathways for the Amaravati ancient town, informed by new approaches on all fronts with a sustainable developmental action Plan. The organic historical linkages and relationships between the Ancient Town and the surrounding stakeholder communities and villages need to be taken up as a priority.

Investment of resources must assist conservation. The old ginning mill, historic houses in the Pujari street, Zamindar’s house and other buildings from the past 200 years in Amaravati ancient town are in need of urgent protection. New attractions need to be developed in the hinterland. Environmental impacts need to be monitored with an increase in tourist visits and business activities.

Amaravati, the ancient Dhanyakataka, once the flourishing capital centre in the formation of Andhradesa, may yet again become the heartthrob of the lower River Krishna Valley. A local Amaravati Heritage Society could ensure civil society engagement and benefit-sharing. An Amaravati Ecomuseum, an open air spatial approach to all forms of heritage, including the ancient town and its hinterland, will ensure sustainable growth.

Prof Amareswar Galla is the Executive Director of the International Institute for the Inclusive Museum, Australia & Denmark

[Source] thehindu.com: Retaining Amaravati as an ancient town

[Call For Papers] The Best in Heritage 2014

Best in Heritage 2014

“The Best in Heritage” is the world’s only annual survey of awarded museum, heritage and conservation projects

 This years conference will be held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, 25 – 27 September 2014

The Best in Heritage is a two-day conference about professional excellence in public performances of heritage institutions demonstrated by the 24 presentations of awarded museum, heritage and conservation projects from all over the world. This year, we add to this conference of excellence a one day symposium to be held on Sunday, September 28th on the theme of “Efficiency and excellence in the public memory sector”. The book volume of presented contributions will be pre-published for the conference, distributed to the participants and made available on-line.

Call For Papers: Deadline April 30th 2014

Contributions should come from all the institutional facets of heritage: we all have our notion of what should be praised as excellence and how to achieve it, – for the noble and practical reasons, – in a world that offers but more and more challenges to this ambition. This may seem too wide an approach, but from the point of our users we are parts of the public service using collective and social memory for the quality of living.

Our claim is that all heritage organisations and institutions (museums, conservation, libraries, archives, hybrid and cyber institutions, heritage actions and networks, living heritage etc.) continue to demonstrate a constant convergence of their practices. Their theories converge to imply the need for a common science, – a higher conceptual level. This emerging science (Heritology? Mnemosophy, Cultural Heritage Science?) is another cohesion factor for the many diverse heritage occupations which each have their own theories (e.g. Museology, Archivistics, Librarianship, Computer science etc.).

Besides sharing ICT and theory, the heritage sector also shares a focus on visitors and users and the same mission in society: we all want to turn the heritage from the past into a noble and scientifically based wisdom that can then be used for the harmonious development of our society. Those shared values, together with the analysis of good daily practice, from eco-museums  to citizen heritage action, should be the leitmotiv of the papers and presentations we expect to receive.

This call for papers is in fact a plea for like-minded sympathizers and allies to join us in the project of a future grand profession, uniting all our heritage occupations in a concerted effort to turn our collective public memories into a Useful Heritage.

Deadline is April 30th. For more information visit: 


World Culture Forum, 24-27 November, Bali, Indonesia

World Culture Forum |  The Power of Culture in Sustainable Development

World Culture Forum

The Power of Culture in Sustainable Development

24 – 27 November 2013, Bali, Indonesia

In 2011 the UN General Assembly called for a more visible and effective integration and mainstreaming of culture into development policies and strategies at all levels. The World Culture Forum  is envisaged as an arena for sharing experiences, strengthening meaningful relationships, appreciating cultural diversity and fostering policies that enable local and national cultural communities to flourish in an age of unprecedented globalisation.

The World Culture Forum convened by the President of Indonesia in Bali from 24 to 27 November 2013 aspires to recommend:

  • New pathways for locating culture as an integral part of sustainable development
  • Ethical frameworks for ensuring community engagement and stakeholder benefits
  • New participatory models for promoting cultural democracy
  • Draft frameworks for evidence based measuring of sustainable cultural development
  • Strategic inputs into the framing of Sustainable Development Goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Leading international agencies and critical thinkers will engage the participants in six themed symposia that will form the overarching framework of the World Culture Forum 2013:

  • Holistic Approaches to Culture in Development
  • Civil Society and Cultural Democracy
  • Creativity and Cultural Economics
  • Culture in Environmental Sustainability
  • Sustainable Urban Development
  • Inter-Faith Dialogue and Community Building