Heritage in Peace Building

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Ending civil-strife and sustaining peace is a global priority, as articulated in the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, through its Goal 16.  History, however, points to a different reality:  nearly half of all peace agreements signed since the second half of the 20th century have resulted in conflict relapse.

Thus, preventing new conflicts also encompasses the challenge of preventing old conflicts from reoccurring. But how can this be achieved when most conflicts involve intertwined and complex incompatibilities of power, resources, religion, ethnicity and identity? 

PATH - Peacebuilding Assessment Tool for Heritage Recovery and Rehabilitation provides vital insights into the cultural drivers of a conflict that have the potential to prolong it or make it reoccur due to unresolved grievances.

Recognized as violations of human rights and war crimes, the denial of access to heritage or its looting and deliberate destruction during conflicts have led to the adoption of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution, 2347 denouncing such acts, and extending protection to at risk cultural heritage in war zones.

Despite such advances, there is only a superficial understanding of why cultural heritage gets targeted during violent conflicts, and what potential role its safeguard or recovery could play in building lasting peace.

PATH addresses this gap. The guiding questions and exercises in the Tool are intended to help heritage practitioners, peacebuilders and supporting organizations to take key decisions on which heritage gets preserved or rebuilt, where, when and by whom. Such decisions are key to maintaining peace and addressing the root causes of a conflict.

“Cultural heritage can be a factor of division but also a component for peace, reconciliation and development, helping to build a better and inclusive future. Protecting and enhancing cultural heritage in conflict and crises has become a priority for the European Union External Action. PATH - The Peacebuilding Assessment Tool for Heritage Recovery and Rehabilitation is a unique instrument that can be used to analyze the root causes of conflict and provide a coherent way of engagement on heritage projects for a lasting peace. It represents a valuable opportunity to reinforce the partnership between ICCROM and the EU, while bringing together the growing community of practice of women and men engaged in the daily protection of cultural heritage across the world.” 

Guillaume Décot,
Principal Policy Officer for the Protection of Cultural Heritage,
Integrated Approach for Security and Peace Directorate,
European External Action Service


PATH has been conceived within the framework of ICCROM’s flagship programme on First Aid and Resilience for Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis. It forms the first publication of the Toolkit on Heritage for Peace and Resilience, an initiative supported by the Principality of Monaco.

PATH was field-tested through the international capacity building project Culture Cannot Wait: Heritage for Peace and Resilience, in collaboration with the Principality of Monaco and the Swedish Postcode Foundation.

Written in an easy-to-understand style and illustrated with infographics, diagrams and photos, the Tool engages users in a ‘good enough’ macro-analysis of the conflict settings in which their respective heritage interventions are situated.  The analysis of the conflict context in turn builds a deeper understanding of how the attitudes and behaviours of those caught up in the conflict can affect heritage in terms of both its significance and use.

“The symbolic acronym PATH stands for a user-friendly and a game-style formatted matrix to assess conflict impact of heritage restoration, and mitigate risks - which it might either face or cause - through a context-tailored set of objectives. It addresses the relationship between heritage, conflict and peace. The authors argue that heritage projects either ferment peacebuilding or lead to conflict relapse, depending on the specific conflict context, as well as on the heritage recovery management. The style of presentation with the combination of smart pictograms and clear wording enables wide and easy use of the tool by both experts and non-experts. The publication is hopefully the initial step of a much-needed set of practical tools for heritage recovery in the peace building processes across the world, which should be adaptable to diverse contexts and based on empirical knowledge.”

Dr. Amra Hadzimuhamedovic,
Center for Cultural Heritage,
International Forum Bosnia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo


PATH is meant to assist individuals, institutions, NGOs and community groups interested in the recovery, rehabilitation or enhancement of heritage in areas affected by conflicts. International aid organizations that finance or implement heritage projects in conflict contexts may find it useful for informing their selection of projects, as well as the subsequent evaluation and monitoring of their outcomes.

“A must-read for all those who are committed to protecting heritage in conflict areas! PATH is a practical and in-depth toolkit to turn to again and again when designing, implementing and monitoring heritage protection initiatives in vulnerable, conflict and post- conflict settings. It clearly sets out peacebuilding concepts and how to apply them to concrete heritage projects. It contains useful do’s and don’ts for planning conflict-sensitive interventions for heritage. As a funder, we highly recommend PATH to our current and future grantees. The publication will be very helpful in demonstrating how heritage recovery contributes to peacebuilding.”

Alexandra Fiebig,
Project Manager,
International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH)


The Tool can be used at different stages of a heritage project in a given conflict context. The e-version of PATH, enables project teams to write directly into a shared document, while the team reflection exercises require supplementary information gathered with the input of relevant stakeholders.

PATH - A tool for directing heritage recovery for sustainable peace

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If you are undertaking heritage recovery in a conflict context, try answering the questions extracted from the Step 2 of the Tool (see image on the right). If you answer yes in each case, you get to collect two flags, which will quantify the context related vulnerabilities of your heritage project. Such vulnerabilities increase the risk of project failure and further discord.

To find out more, download and share PATH - Peacebuilding Assessment Tool for Heritage Recovery and Rehabilitation.

ICCROM acknowledges its alumni network, who have contributed to the field testing of the Tool in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mali and the United States of America.The creators of PATH consider it to be a living document, to be further tested in a variety of conflict contexts and updated accordingly.

All feedback is welcome and can be sent to: far_programme@iccrom.org

Coming soon: PATH - Peacebuilding Assessment Tool for Heritage Recovery and Rehabilitation in Arabic and French!