“On Culture and Development” Remarks by World Bank Group Senior VP Mahmoud Mohieldin
30th General Assembly of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM)
Thursday, November 30, 2017 Rome, Italy
Distinguished delegates, excellencies, and friends, I am delighted to be here today — at the 30th General Assembly of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property — to talk about the scope of the development challenges embedded in cultural heritage preservation, the World Bank Group’s work in this area, especially in fragile and post-conflict settings, and the programs that we are currently doing in partnership with UNESCO and other development partners to develop global knowledge and improve our effectiveness…
Cultural Heritage in the Context of Global Goals and Conditions
As you know, in 2015, 193 countries endorsed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals — or SDGs — which seek to protect people and the planet, while leaving no one behind, by 2030. These goals are extremely ambitious — ending poverty, hunger, child mortality, improving incomes, etc. — and global economic, environmental, and social conditions won’t make them any easier to attain.
Yet by 2030, and following the current patterns, disasters are projected to cost cities around the world over $300 billion dollars, with the concentration of people and assets in cities making them vulnerable to cascading failures in the wake of a disaster. Conflicts and climate-induced displacement are pushing even more people towards cities. Right now, there are 66 million inhabitants displaced, with roughly one-third of those settling in cities. These numbers are expected to grow significantly in the future, because of climate change.
Cultural landmarks and the historic core of cities are often the victims of collateral damage, during urban battles, or even when deliberately targeted due to their symbolic meaning. Disasters and conflicts not only limit people’s access to their cultural heritage, but also affect their intangible practices and creative industry.
Cultural heritage is a scarce resource, but when used properly, can be a valuable asset for recovery and critical economic growth to reduce poverty and achieve other important social goals. Rebuilding sustainable cities after disasters is an opportunity that should not be missed to: strengthen urban resilience and social inclusion; improve land use planning; rebuild more efficient infrastructure; and conserve cultural heritage to contribute to both economic recovery and reconciliation….
Disasters send us a reminder that investing in cultural heritage conservation can make our heritage resilient and mitigate the damaging effects of disasters. In the medium term, conserving and promoting our unique cultural heritage would also attract sustainable and responsible tourists, encourage the private sector to invest, create jobs, encourage creativity, while protecting the environment.
We can preserve historic monuments and landmarks, while improving cultural amenities and public facilities. Our libraries, museums, theaters, parks, and spaces for performance, art and creativity, both conserve our heritage and help give birth to a creative and entrepreneurial future.
World Bank Group Approach
The World Bank Group has a long history in this area, integrating these approaches into our country partnership strategies, and aligning them with national objectives and the World Bank Group’s twin goals to end poverty and boost shared prosperity in a sustainable manner.
The World Bank’s role in the protection of built cultural heritage dates back to the first reconstruction loan to France after World War II. It is only, however, in the late 1970s and early 1980s that the institution started to engage in cultural heritage conservation in developing countries, such as the pilot rehabilitation of the Hafsia neighborhood in the Tunis medina or the upgrading of Lahore’s historic walled city.
The Bank Group increased lending and technical assistance for cultural heritage in the late 1990s, following the international conference held in Florence in 1999, and now has financed more than 300 lending and non-lending operations that include components in historic city regeneration and cultural preservation…
World Bank Group Cultural Heritage Work in Post-Conflict and Post-Disaster Reconstruction
The Bank’s experience regarding cultural heritage at risk in conflict-affected and post-conflict countries is always part of comprehensive plans, designed in the context of development partnerships. World Bank Group-financed post-conflict or disaster projects often involve several development partners, given the humanitarian, reconstruction and recovery dimensions that are at the core of the activities. They are challenging to implement, as they need to strike a delicate balance between the imperatives of speedy recovery, sustainable development, and improvement of the living conditions, while taking the cultural dimension into account.
Right now, the World Bank Group has a portfolio of about $1 billion dollars in support of cultural heritage conservation and post-disaster/post conflict reconstruction around the world. We are involved in the three phases of post-conflict reconstruction of historic cities: pre-conflict (prevention by strengthening disaster risk management and institutional preparedness), during the conflict (protection) and post-conflict (recovery, maintenance, sustainability, and re-appropriation).
Out projects often utilize the Bank’s extensive experience with disaster management. They underline the importance of community involvement and the need for flexibility. Designs are often adjusted to accommodate local needs and they may also be affected by resurgent conflicts. Despite their inherent difficulties, however, all projects demonstrate the power of cultural heritage in fostering a collective sense of identity, pride, and social cohesion.
It is also important to note that we believe we must work with our partners to build resilience before there is a disaster or conflict. Thus, our work encompasses preventive approaches, to protect cultural heritage through the strengthening of disaster risk management and institutional preparedness.
Our projects are developed at the request of national governments, which often appoint technical units to implement the activities. The local governments and institutions are then best suited to play the coordinating role that can, in turn, be supported by partner NGOs, associations, and private entities…
We know that, to be successful in building these durable global public goods and critical services, we have to work in partnership — with UNESCO, ICCROM and other international agencies, with MDBs, bilateral partners, CSOs, foundations, academic, and many others. These partnerships are even more critical in fragile, conflict-affected, and post-disaster contexts.
To preserve our civilization, we need to listen to lessons of history and culture. Drawing on collective wisdom will help us rebuild better and smarter, to safeguard our precious cultural heritage, so that — together — we can build a world that is more peaceful, prosperous, and more secure.