In the wake of the destructive flooding that struck Libya on 13 September 2023, which caused extensive damage, loss of lives and displacement, a significant step towards recovery was taken. On 8 November 2023, ICCROM’s flagship programme, First Aid and Resilience for Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis (FAR) and the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation (EHRF) co-led a workshop on conducting post-event on-site damage and risk assessment to cultural heritage, in collaboration with the ICCROM-Sharjah Regional Office.
Derna, an ancient city of historical and cultural significance in Libya, faced the full force of the flooding's impact. The workshop analyzed the extent of damage, with the old city centre being severely affected due to the collapse of two uphill dams under heavy rainfall. Most, if not all, of the historical buildings, were damaged or destroyed, making it essential to take immediate action to safeguard this invaluable cultural heritage.
The workshop addressed the urgent need to assess the damage and risks faced by all types of cultural heritage in Libya. Fifteen cultural heritage professionals from diverse fields, including engineering, architecture and Derna City Officials, gathered to discuss the situation on-the-ground and explore how ICCROM-FAR can help in these challenging times through our well-established first aid methodology. The workshop was conducted in both English and Arabic with simultaneous interpretation to ensure clear communication and knowledge transfer.
Aparna Tandon, ICCROM-FAR Senior Programme leader, outlined how different forms of heritage can be assessed, documented and stabilized in the aftermath of large-scale disasters. Mr Abdelhamid Salah and Ms Amira Sadik Aly from the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation then co-led a session on ICCROM-FAR's step-by-sTep methodology for conducting on-site damage and risk assessment. This was followed by a presentation on ICCROM’s damage and risk assessment tools, including its newest web and mobile-based app, by Mohona Chakraburtty, Project Officer, FAR.
Participants discussed the challenges associated with obtaining funding for culture in the context of humanitarian aid and the central role data obtained from damage and risk assessments can play in addressing these issues.
The workshop systematically reviewed ICCROM-FAR’s damage and risk assessment form, which was made available in English and Arabic and adapted to Libya’s context. The form was designed to guide participants in conducting rapid on-site damage and risk assessments for cultural heritage. The form encompasses several key sections: administrative information, ownership and use, access routes, damage observed to structures and collections, existing capacities and possible secondary risks. Three relevant FAR publications (translated into Arabic) were also shared with the workshop participants - Endangered Heritage: Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections, First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis Handbook and First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis Toolkit - as well as our mobile and web-based application that helps systematically gather data for on-site damage and risk assessment for all types of heritage.
This workshop underscored the importance of cooperation, systematic assessment and documentation in preserving and restoring the cultural heritage that plays a vital role in shaping the identity and history of Libya. As the process moves forward, the commitment of organizations like ICCROM, alongside local experts and officials, will be invaluable in safeguarding the country’s rich cultural legacy.