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Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery

January 15, 202015 January 2020

Social benefits: The arts and post-crisis recovery and resettlement

UNESCO and World Bank

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Based on “a thorough analysis of case studies from different regions of the world and historical periods”, this report examines the importance of culture in post-disaster reconstruction and recovery and elaborates a framework that “mainstreams” culture into all phases of the recovery process. The authors note that, “while current place-based strategies prioritize the reconstruction of physical assets, integrating culture strengthens a community’s sense of belonging, as well as the livability of the built environment.”

Disasters and conflicts have led to 68.5 million displaced people worldwide, including 20 million refugees, “of which 60 percent live in cities”. The number of displaced people is expected to grow as disasters and conflicts increase.

They authors note that “culture – including tangible and intangible cultural heritage and creativity – is essential both as an asset and as a tool for city reconstruction and recovery”. As a way of achieving this, the authors propose a CURE framework (Culture in City Re-building and Recovery). The framework includes several guiding principles for the integration of culture in reconstruction and recovery, such as:

  • “Acknowledging the city as a ‘cultural construct’ where built structures and open spaces are closely linked to the social fabric.”
  • “Starting the reconciliation process with the (re)construction of cultural landmarks and places of significance to local communities.”
  • “Fostering cultural expressions to offer appropriate ways to deal with post-crisis trauma and reconcile affected communities.”
  • “Prioritizing culture early in the planning process, starting with needs assessments and the implementation of emergency interventions that reflect community priorities.”
  • “Engaging communities and local governments in every step of the recovery process.”

The report contains case studies of recovery efforts in several locations, including Banda Aceh (Indonesia) and Medellin (Colombia). After the 2004 tsunami in Banda Aceh, “reconstruction leaders collaborated with local theater groups to develop and perform new plays that promoted dialogue on Banda Aceh’s reconstruction and peacebuilding process”. Based on the case studies, the authors conclude that “culture is a major source of resilience and stimulates other development sectors when integrated into the planning, financing, and implementation process of post-disaster and post-conflict reconstruction and recovery”.

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