ICCROM and the Swedish Postcode Foundation are pleased to announce the release of the publication, A Story of Change – Success Stories and Lessons Learnt from the Culture Cannot Wait: Heritage for Peace and Resilience Project, now available for free download.

Building a Case for Cultural Heritage as an Instrument for Peace and Resilience

Intrinsically linked to people’s identity, when faced with a disaster, culture has proven capacities to amplify the resilience of a community and contribute directly to its sustainable recovery. The 16 participants mentored through ICCROM’s cascading capacity development initiative, Culture Cannot Wait: Heritage for Peace and Resilience (Culture Cannot Wait), first in its kind, have broken new ground and developed context-specific projects in 14 risk-prone countries, instrumentalizing heritage for people-centred disaster risk reduction.

A Story of Change – Success Stories and Lessons Learnt from the Culture Cannot Wait: Heritage for Peace and Resilience Project gathers evidence on how these participants have been able to effect change in their home countries. With very different backgrounds, through their institutions and communities, participant projects contributed to the advancement of efficient disaster risk reduction and emergency response for protecting cultural heritage in their local context. Involving a total of 70 organizations from different sectors, with over 345 professionals being trained, these field projects were implemented over a period of nine months. These projects ranged from building capacities for disaster risk reduction to promoting community-based disaster risk management and rescuing endangered cultures devastated by violent conflicts, as well as developing guidelines, handbooks, documentary videos and digital tools for preserving cultural heritage in times of crisis, living up to the motto: culture cannot wait.

With the aim of improving disaster risk governance, ICCROM, through its flagship programme on First Aid and Resilience for Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis (FAR), in collaboration with the Swedish Postcode Foundation, developed the Culture Cannot Wait project, which sought to reduce disaster risk through cultural heritage and participatory community action, while demonstrating how the integration of cultural heritage first aid with humanitarian relief makes a meaningful contribution in alleviating the trauma of communities affected by disasters and conflicts.

“Culture is the main route to peoples’ internal peace, even in times of crisis.” E. Abras

The stories of change of this initiative are a testimony of the difficulties faced and successes achieved, tackling the gaps in the field. It records how far participants went within their communities to develop and implement context-specific solutions to meet local challenges, which organizations supported their projects and which new networks were built. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which slowed things down considerably and forced the participants to ‘think outside the box’, these projects succeeded in effecting positive change, safeguarding their local heritage.

When disasters strike, concerns for cultural heritage cannot be pushed back. If cultural heritage were mainstreamed on multiple levels, it could prove to be very effective for sustainable development, bringing about the necessary change in research and policy practice.

The afterlives of these projects have yet to reveal the long-term impacts. However, the community of practice that was built has already helped change attitudes and behaviours, as well as enhanced local knowledge and skills, lighting a flame in all those who participated in this initiative. We hope these stories will inspire others to undertake similar action worldwide, bringing a significant contribution to the capacity building agenda of one’s country, advancing innovative approaches in the field of heritage conservation, while encouraging collaboration between sectors. One person’s story of change can go FAR …

Coming up soon, A Story of Change in French!