Research Fellow on Heritage for Global Challenges
Area of work, and why it’s important:
I am a researcher and architect specialised in cultural heritage conservation and management, urban planning and policy evaluation, and sustainable development. My work aims to impact heritage policy and practice, influence decision-making and foster societal challenges. My interdisciplinary research has broken new ground and a shift in thinking both in heritage and development studies. It discusses the role of heritage in tackling global challenges, bringing communities together, supporting resilience and wellbeing, and fostering sustainable development. A specific emphasis has been to demonstrate the centrality of heritage and culture to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including climate change (SDG 13). This is an aspect that has been overlooked for too long, but that constitutes a unique resource for climate action. In more than ten years working in the heritage sector, I have produced evidence and increased awareness on the role of (cultural) heritage for climate action, also collaborating with a wide range of stakeholders, including the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), UK National Commission for UNESCO, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UNESCO, International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), African World Heritage Fund, the Climate Heritage Network, the British Council, the Italian Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Culture of Cameroon.
What are the big issues that COP27 needs to address? What are your hopes for the negotiations?
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time: global warming is causing the rise of extreme weather events and natural disasters, declining diversity of life on earth, increased disease and threats to health, loss of lives, mass displacement, and major impacts on livelihoods and rights. Countries eligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA) are particularly affected by change, which is a constant struggle and impacts not only on communities’ livelihoods, food security and sustainable agriculture and the sustainable management of landscapes, ecosystems, and biodiversity, but also the richness and diversity of their heritage and the values associated with it. Climate change also impacts on the human rights (including cultural rights) of billions of people, ‘posing particular threats to the rights and cultures of populations of low-lying Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Indigenous Peoples, rural people, women, persons with disabilities, those living in poverty and others’.
I hope that COP27 negotiations will bring to a greater awareness on the potential of cultural heritage for climate action and to the development of concrete policies and actions to effectively use them to realise low carbon, just, climate resilient futures; and achieve climate resilient sustainable development.
What’s your message for world leaders at COP27?
- Climate change is of global concern, affecting communities worldwide, and their heritage, in different ways. Climate change impacts not only on communities’ livelihoods, food security, and well-being, but also on the richness and diversity of heritage assets and values. It is a growing threat to heritage properties worldwide, many of which are experiencing damage, degradation and other negative consequences.
- Cultural heritage, particularly intangible heritage, is a source of resilience and an asset supporting communities in climate action. Traditional and Indigenous knowledge, practices, social customs, ethical values, belief systems, rituals, and worldviews all offer communities resilient approaches and guidance in adapting to a changing climate and assist in mitigating its effects.
- Cultural heritage conservation and management, community resilience, and climate action should be considered in a single framework. Climate adaptation, resilience, and traditional knowledge and practices are interrelated and should be comprehensively integrated into heritage research and methodologies, conservation approaches, and management processes.
Any tips for readers about climate action?
Concrete examples and recommendations on how to harness the potential of cultural heritage for climate change are available in this report about heritage and sustainability.