Heritage authorities from six heritage cities in Asia, Pacific and Africa gather in George Town, Penang, Malaysia, from 20 to 21 June 2019 to attend a workshop entitled “Experience Sharing Workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Strategy among Heritage Cities in Southeast Asia, Pacific and Africa“ held by UNESCO Office Jakarta in collaboration with George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI). Historic cities require special attention and alternative approaches to disaster risk reduction as heritage buildings are not replaceable and cannot be treated just as any other buildings. Six heritage cities, namely George Town (Malaysia), Melaka (Malaysia), Semarang Old Town (Indonesia), Levuka Historical Port Town (Fiji), Historic Monuments and Sites in Apia Waterfront (Samoa) and the Island of Mozambique (Mozambique), will meet this June in Penang to share their experience in addressing the special needs of heritage cities in preparing disaster risk reduction strategy.
The workshop is part of a project funded by the Malaysian Funds-in-Trust (MFIT) aimed at building disaster resilience of heritage cities in Asia-Pacific through capacity-building of local authorities and heritage managers. The first phase of the project between 2017 and 2018 supported the development of city-specific DRR strategy for George Town, Semarang and Levuka. In the second phase which began since December 2018, Apia Historic Waterfront and Island of Mozambique joined the beneficiary countries to encourage South-South cooperation. The present workshop is the last activity of the second phase, with particular focus on the strategy to mobilize and build capacity of local community in the DRR. The workshop will draw inspiration from the case study of George Town, which has successfully moved forward to initiate community-based DRR of the core historical zone under the project
Dr. Ang Ming Chee, the General Manager of GTWHI, is happy to share the good progresses made by George Town. She stated that George Town has benefited a lot from this project and have kick starts many series of community based DRR strategies with active participation from the local people. “There is still a long way to go, but we have started in reducing risks on cultural heritage in George Town and we will continue championing this strategy for our next generations”.The Director and Representative of UNESCO Office Jakarta, Dr. Shahbaz Khan also confirms that community involvement is a key to successful DRR, as they are most of the time the first to respond to the hazards on the ground. He hopes that this peer exchange workshop among the historic cities will inspire one another in developing dynamic and effective methods of community mobilization in the DRR. Echoing the above remarks, Mr. Mohamad Sanusi bin Abdul Karim, the Secretary General of the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO, representing the Malaysian Government, emphasized the importance of the project in safeguarding the heritage cities around the world. The commitment given by Malaysia in this project shows that it prioritizes the empowerment of South-South Cooperation, in the spirit of prosper-thy-neighbor.
Photo credit: Asanti Astari, Fiji National Trust, Rohit Jigyasu, GTWHI