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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.

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

Intangible Heritage Safeguarding Governance in Asia-Pacific

Intangible Heritage

On Intangible Heritage Safeguarding Governance: An Asia-Pacific Context

Published in the year of the 10th anniversary of UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage, this book covers intangible cultural heritage (ICH) governance through an Asia-Pacific context, making reference to the historical development of international instruments guiding ICH policy.

With a review of the 2003 Convention’s development, this work provides an understanding into why the Convention is the way it is, how it is developing, and how to apply it in different situations. Furthermore, dedicating sections to explain good governance and the manner through which the 2003 Convention hopes to influence good governance in the ICH field will help readers understand the major issues and barriers to good governance in this field.

In addition, the case studies integrated in this volume provide tools and context analyze ICH and ICH governance. Overall, the central questions answered in this work are ‘What is governance in terms of ICH safeguarding?’ and ‘How do interactions between global and local governance develop?’ The included experimental strategies for enhancing ICH safeguarding governance offer a glimpse into what may be possible.

Intangible Heritage Safeguarding Governance

Its author, Dr Seong-Yong Park, is an expert and scholar in the field of cultural heritage studies in the Asia-Pacific region, who earned his PhD at the University of Queensland, Australia, in Heritage Studies. He is currently Assistant Director-General of ICHCAP, a UNESCO Category 2 Centre. He is also Adjunct Professor in Folklore Studies at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea, and Editor-in-Chief of the ICH Courier.

 “…the real value of this work comes from his overview and analysis of international initiatives, such as the Living Human Treasure System and the UNESCO Masterpieces Programme, and their contributions to developing the 2003 Convention.”

Prof. Dawnhee Yim, Dongguk University, Former Member, Unesco’s International Jury for the Proclamation of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

“Going beyond a mere description of various safeguarding practices and government regulations, Dr Park offers his own insightful analyses, evaluations, and recommendations that are fully informed by the most up-to-date theoretical considerations and current practices.”

Prof. Roger L. Janelli, Professor Emeritus of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Indiana University

“Dr Park’s discussions of theory and his presentations of case studies in Asia-Pacific countries will surely find use as foundational materials for both academic study and practical guidance in developing policy and regimes of governance for cultural heritage”

Dr Peter Seitel, Senior Folklorist Emeritus of Smithsonian Institution & Former Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University

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[Video] European Museum Advisors Conference Lisbon 2012

European Museum Advisors Conference: The crisis as a challenge, Lisbon 2012

Amareswar Galla at European Museum Advisors Conference Lisbon 2012

World Heritage: Benefits Beyond Borders

World Heritage Benefits Beyond Borders

World Heritage: Benefits Beyond Borders

International Institute for the Inclusive Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Edited by Amareswar Galla

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Launched at the closing ceremony of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, November 2012, this thematic collection of case studies provides a thorough understanding of World Heritage sites and their Outstanding Universal Value in the context of sustainable development. The case studies describe twenty-six thematically, typologically and regionally diverse World Heritage sites illustrating their benefits to local communities and ecosystems and sharing the lessons learned with the diverse range of stakeholders involved. The volume emphasises a holistic and integrated view of World Heritage, linking it to the role local communities play in management and protection, and to issues of ecosystem sustainability, and the maintenance of biological, linguistic and cultural diversity. Cross-disciplinary in its scope, this book will provide a meeting point for researchers, practitioners, community representatives and the wider public and will promote cultural and natural heritage conservation as a key vector of sustainable development and social cohesion.

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For more information download the Cambridge University Press brochure:

World Heritage: Benefits Beyond Borders, PDF

Cold War Museum At Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie Prompts Discussion Over City’s Past

By Sophie Duvernoy | Huffington Post

BERLIN, Aug 28 (Reuters) – More than two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, differences over how to represent the Cold War past are hampering plans to build a new museum at the former Checkpoint Charlie border crossing.

Every day thousands of tourists flock to the site of a dramatic standoff between Soviet and American tanks in 1961 in the centre of what is now the capital of a reunited Germany.

Though still a potent symbol of the confrontation between communist East and capitalist West, the checkpoint today looks rather ramshackle and has been dubbed “snackpoint Charlie” by local media because of a proliferation of food stands.

The site features a rebuilt guard house and a cramped private museum focused on the methods used by East Germans to flee over the Wall. Drama students pose in U.

Read full article at OnMuseums.com

Has Art Gallery Boom Paid Off?

By Ian Youngs from BBC News- Entertainment & Arts


Over the past decade, bold and costly new art galleries have sprung up in towns from Margate to Middlesbrough in the hope of regenerating underloved areas and bringing modern art to the masses. Has the strategy worked?

Ten years ago on Friday, an old flour mill on the banks of the River Tyne was reborn as a temple to modern art when Gateshead's Baltic gallery opened its doors.

The £46m Baltic and its neighbour the Sage, a futuristic Norman Foster-designed concert hall, have become city landmarks.

But as well as cultural venues, they are monuments to the metamorphoses cities like Newcastle and Gateshead have gone through since the steam and soot of heavy industry subsided. Read More.

Read full article at OnMuseums.com

A Haven National and Universal: The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Renewed

By Edward Rothstein | The New York Times

JERUSALEM — The world’s great national museums are not modest places. Whether imperial in origin (as in Vienna) or popular in intention (in London), whether aristocratic in tone (in St. Petersburg) or eagerly embracing multitudes (our own Smithsonians), they reflect the vision of the countries that created them. In galleries we can discern how a nation thinks about itself and its place in the world by seeing what it values and how it tells its stories.

The Israel Museum adds another kind of intricacy to this reflection, because it is, like its nation, so young, and because the story it tells, also like that of its nation, is so old.

Read full article at OnMuseums.com

After Islamist Riots Triggered by Contemporary Art Fair, Tensions Remain High in Tunis

By Gareth Harris | The Art Newspaper

Artists in Tunis still feel under threat following protests by hundreds of hard-line Salafi Islamists last month against a number of works shown at the Printemps des Arts contemporary art fair. According to state media, the Islamist demonstrators damaged four works on show in the fair held early last month in the Abdeliya Palace in the northern La Marsa suburb of the capital. The troubles began when a notary distributed images of works at the fair, including a piece which spelt out the words “Sobhan Allah” using insects.

Héla Ammar, a photographer who participated in the fair, says: “We still do not feel safe. Some artists are afraid to return their neighbourhoods for fear of being attacked.

Read full article at OnMuseums.com