ICOMOS: New Web Platform Focuses on Role of Cultural Heritage in Habitat 3 and the New Urban Agenda

ICOMOS: New Web Platform Focuses on Role of Cultural Heritage in Habitat 3 and the New Urban Agenda

The US National Committee of ICOMOS has launched a new web platform devoted to cultural heritage and sustainable development.  The platform, known as the Heritage and Sustainable Development Knowledge Community or @usicomos_sd for short, is a joint project of US/ICOMOS, the US members of the ICOMOS International committee on Economics of Conservation (ISCEC) and the firm Heritage Strategies International (HSI).  The goal of @usicomos_sd is to use web and social media-based tools to organize heritage practitioners around sharing international knowledge on heritage, Habitat 3 and the New Urban Agenda.

Key issues that will be covered include, first, cultural heritage and creativity as drivers of inclusive economic development. Heritage areas incubate creativity while intangible heritage and sustainable tourism are drivers of inclusive livelihoods.  The site will also address cultural heritage as an enabler of social cohesion, inclusion and equity.  Historic environments including public spaces and monuments are functionally and socially mixed and embody multiple cultural values. Heritage, both tangible and intangible, strengthens communities by fostering pride, shared identity, integration and emplacement among newcomers and longtime residents alike. A third area of focus for the site is cultural heritage’s role in urban resilience, livability and sustainability.  This includes the ecology of conserving materials and places, traditional knowledge and indigenous science, as well as the role dense, walkable and inclusive historic areas play as proven sustainable models for new urban settlements.

The launch of @usicomos_sd comes at a critical juncture, just after the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the new global Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) and just before the monumental Habitat 3 meeting in October.  Unlike their predecessors – the Millennium Development Goals -- the SDGs speak boldly about the role of heritage in development. Of the 7 targets making up the groundbreaking new Urban Goal, Target 11.4 calls for “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable by strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.”   The adoption of the SDGs has been accompanied by several parallel Post-2015 agenda settings processes. Because of the work of ICOMOS and partners, these also include groundbreaking references to Heritage, most notably the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

ICOMOS is a non-governmental organization that works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage around the world.  It also serves as the Advisory Body on cultural heritage to the World Heritage Committee for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO.  At an international level, ICOMOS has been at the forefront globally in considering the role of heritage in sustainable development. One of the most comprehensive efforts to address the role of cultural heritage in urban development is the ICOMOS Symposium entitled “Heritage, a driver of development” held in Paris in 2011. This meeting was held in anticipation of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (the Rio+20 Conference) and attended by nearly 1,200 heritage experts from over 100 countries.  The meeting resulted in a doctrinal text in heritage known as the “Declaration of Paris on Heritage as a Driver of Development.”

The inclusion of Target 11.4 in the SDGs is one of the most important realizations of the #culture2015goal campaign, a coalition of more than 700 organizations from around the world working with UNESCO that mobilized in support of explicit targets and indicators for culture in the SDGs.  The Target acknowledges the critical role of culture and cultural heritage/landscapes in the emerging need for a paradigm shift to a concept of development that view sustainability in more humanistic and ecological terms. 

“The SDGs show that the World has a common vision of sustainability and a shared understanding of the tools – including heritage – that make that vision achievable. Now it’s up to all of us to build and re-build that future together,” said ICOMOS President Gustavo Araoz.  The New Urban Agenda is the first major step in this process and for operationalizing sustainable development in an integrated and coordinated way at global, regional, national, sub-national and local levels. By creating an action-oriented roadmap for implementation, the New Urban Agenda will drive the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Goal 11. Because the heritage target, 11.4, is located within Goal 11, the elaboration of the role of heritage in Agenda 2030 is necessarily closely linked to the Habitat 3 New Urban Agenda process as well.

The @usicomos_sd platform aims to connect cultural heritage and historic preservation professionals working on the heritage dimensions of urban issues with these global processes.  Subscribers will receive notifications when new international sustainable development content is added to the @usicomos_sd Knowledge Community home page.  It also offers a new twitter feed, @usicomos_sd, an events calendar and more.   These tools are designed to build collaboration, breakdown cost and time barriers to international exchange, harness new technologies and leverage traditional face-to-face exchange programs.

@usicomos_sd is an open source platform and any user may subscribe by visiting http://www.usicomos.org/knowledgeexchange/heritage-as-pillar-of-sustainable-development/. Your participation is welcome!

Article by ICOMOS
Photo Credits: Photo Credit: Heritage Strategies International