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PRESS RELEASE March 3, 2019

Culture Is Key to "Building Cities Back Better"

World Bank - UNESCO "Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery (CURE)" Guide

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2019— as they presented the Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery (CURE) position paper today at the World Bank.

“While culture is essential both as an asset and a tool for city reconstruction and recovery, it is often left out or given limited consideration as part of these efforts,” said Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank. “The CURE framework looks at a city as a cultural construct made up of many layers of values and attributes – new and old, tangible and intangible. It’s designed to guide policymakers and practitioners to rebuild with culture as a bedrock of their planning.”

“From built to living heritage, from diversity to creativity, protecting and promoting culture and boosting a creative economy is the key for city reconstruction and recovery processes to be meaningful to people and communities,” said Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. “As acknowledged by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in many countries across the globe, culture is a vehicle towards a peaceful and sustainable future. It can no longer be a dividend of development but is rather a prerequisite to achieving it.”

This allows the integration of reconstruction policies that consider people’s needs and place characteristics into a coherent strategy. These perspectives strengthen the sense of belonging of communities, their identities and improve livability of the city and people's livelihoods.

After natural disasters, careful attention to culture can make recovery, preparedness, and response programs more effective and sustainable. In post-conflict situations, they can enhance social cohesion and build bridges for reconciliation.

The paper says tackling the impact of crises – whether they stem from natural hazards, armed conflict, or acute urban distress – requires responses that acknowledge the specific needs, priorities, and identities of all communities and social groups, and that those responses provide opportunities for social inclusion and economic development.

The value of culture in urban reconstruction and recovery has been advocated for years, however, in practice it has usually focused on the recovery of architectural assets. But incorporating the benefits of intangible cultural heritage – including practices, skills, expressions, and knowledge that are transmitted across generations – into the process is equally critical to successful recovery.

The CURE framework draws from global experience and lays out an initial roadmap through the entire project cycle. Practitioners can follow it to develop more detailed guidelines for their projects with the participation of citizens, taking into account the needs, values, and priorities of the people.

CURE is part of a broader initiative following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between UNESCO and the World Bank in July 2017, which focused on urban regeneration and historic urban landscapes, the cultural and creative industries, as well as resilience and disaster risk management, with culture as a driver.

The paper highlights successful cases from:

  • Medellín, Colombia, which developed the concept of “citizen culture” to dramatically turn around the city from its violent past to a global example of city management.
  • Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where the reconstruction strategy after the 2004 tsunami successfully addressed the three decades of separatist conflict that had caused deep social and political division.
  • Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose citizens demanded a full rebuilding of the local bridge as a symbol of the recovery process after the 1993 war.

More recently, the World Bank and UNESCO are preparing to collaborate in Iraq on the rehabilitation of Mosul, building on the CURE Framework, as part of UNESCO’s “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative and the World Bank’s Emergency Operation for Development project.



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