Disaster and world heritage with focus on pandemics

False-colour image of Mumbai, highlighting mangrove forests in dark green. Image: NASA.

Wildlife Institute of India - Category 2 Centre (WII-C2C) for "World Natural Heritage Management and Training for Asia and the Pacific Regoin", under the auspices of UNESCO

United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Maxar Technologies

Fri, 22 May 2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected humanity in an unprecedented manner. This has brought attention to pandemics as a disaster with global disruption of political, social and economic life. In the light of such a global affliction, UNESCO and its "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage", comprising the largest membership of 193 States Parties, is uniquely placed to address these issues, which require collaboration and cooperation among all countries. The Convention has designated 1121 World Heritage Sites, with 869 iconic cultural monuments and sites, and 252 natural and mixed sites which are home to the most exceptional wildlife and forests on earth.

Pandemics can have serious repercussions for these sites affecting their outstanding universal values. These unique protected areas and cultural spaces are also a critical source of dependence, sustenance and coping mechanism for the associated society, communities, species and natural systems. The lockdown imposed by Governments across the world have disrupted social and economic services for the people and restricted access to many areas including to the World Heritage Sites. As of end-April 2020, UNESCO monitoring data indicates that 72 per cent of all World Heritage Sites are fully closed for access to public.

The event will take place on Friday, 22 May 2020 at 14:00 – 15:00 pm IST (GMT + 5h 30m). To register, please follow this link to the registration form.

In this context, WII-C2C, under the auspices of UNESCO proposes to initiate an international dialogue with the objective to understand the scale, impact, opportunities, responses and tools for conserving world heritage and mitigating threats in the time of the present danger. This dialogue is envisaged through a webinar platform (Zoom/YouTube). Key experts in natural and cultural heritage, disaster and geospatial technology will be invited as resource persons/speakers at the event. A moderator will introduce the webinar theme which will be followed by dialogue with the panel of speakers in a pre-determined Q&A format.

Key questions envisaged for discussion include:
  • Pandemic and the role of UNESCO World Heritage Centres
  • Implications for natural heritage and pandemics
  • Impact of the pandemic on conservation and livelihoods
  • Space-based tools for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (Eco-DRR)
  • Geo-Spatial technological solutions for disaster mitigation
  • Key priorities for cultural heritage and international initiatives
The expected audience will be policy makers, heritage professionals, site managers, researchers and other stakeholders of World Heritage.