With whole communities now being displaced, both in the US and abroad, the looming importance of climate mobility issues can not be ignored. The Paris Agreement produced at COP21 in 2015 recognized this and assigned one of the branches of the UN climate change organization, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, “to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change” To do this, the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism has put out a call for information related to migration, displacement and human mobility.
Whether the enormous heritage implications of these issues will actually be addressed, however, is not certain. Early international policy efforts on the issue of planned climate relocation have largely failed to address heritage considerations but at the same time, the efforts of the organized historic preservation sector to engage on the issue have been meager. Fortunately, a group of historic preservation professionals from the US and abroad has mobilized to try to change that.
The informal working group was formed to help represent cultural heritage voices and expertise in international climate policy discussions, processes and decisions, particularly on issues related to Nature-Culture interlinkages, Oceans, the Cryosphere, Traditional Knowledge and Human Mobility, including the Warsaw Mechanism. The group is being convened by Victoria Herrmann, President & Managing Director of The Arctic Institute, Center for Circumpolar Security Studies, and US/ICOMOS Executive Director Andrew Potts.
This effort is an outgrowth of the The Pocantico Call to Action on Climate Impacts and Cultural Heritage. Within the Pocantico Framework, there are three different groups working on different aspects of the international dimension of climate change and heritage. The group focused on Human Mobility and related issues is called FIG-2 for short. Other groups are working on issues like the coverage of cultural heritage by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the role of heritage in urban resilience.
The FIG-2 group was in the process of organizing when it learned that the UNFCCC and the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage had set up an Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility that put out the open call for information. Unfortunately, the deadline for submission is May 16. A link to the full Call can be found below.
Today the FIG-2 group issued a request to heritage practitioners with relevant experience to make submissions of case studies, articles, reports etc. directly to the Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility in response to the Warsaw Mechanism call. The idea is for the cultural heritage community to get as much information “on the record” as possible both for the Advisory Group and our own database of past, current, and future projects pertaining to cultural heritage and climate mobility. The ultimate purpose of this effort is to help policy makers understand the relevance of cultural heritage to the displacement and emplacement of peoples and communities arising from climate change and climate change mitigation measures.
So what are relevant materials? How can we bring some coherence to the engagement by the heritage sector in these issues? To help simplify things, the FIG-2 group suggests the following three areas of relevance and have drafted a form cover letter to help with submissions. Three areas of relevance that have been identified:
1. The role of cultural heritage as a tool for integration and social cohesion (Use of heritage to help displaced communities, whether temporary or permanent, to create a sense of the familiar and maintain familiar practices and social relationships by modifying their environment; and use of the heritage associated with the place of relocation to help create inclusion for the new arrivals),
2. The need to preserve where possible and/or document and memorialize the tangible heritage left behind by displaced communities (Strategies for reducing the rate of deterioration, recording , minimizing loss of important scientific information, preservation of examples of past technologies, and commemorating, representing and interpreting for future generation the sites , places and cultural land and seascapes left behind), and
3. The need to conserve the Intangible Heritage, Traditional Knowledge, and movable heritage of displaced persons’ and communities’ (Strategies for conserving and perpetuating the collective scientific and intangible heritage values of displaced communities amidst relocation and diaspora).
Here is a sample cover letter to use when making submissions:
Dear Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage,
“I am writing in response to the call that was released by the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage for information related to migration, displacement and human mobility. I feel strongly that the policy framework for addressing climate displacement must take into account of the cultural heritage of the displaced people and their communities. Cultural heritage is a both a community asset to be conserved during relocation and a tool that can aid in the development of strong, socially cohesive communities once relocated. In particular, I would note [ . . .area of relevance, etc.]
In that regard, I am submitting . . . I hope these concepts can be incorporated into your work. The cultural heritage community has organized a platform for addressing these issues referred to as the Pocantico Call to Action on Climate Impacts and Cultural Heritage, drawing on the work of organizations like the Society for American Archaeology and the International Council on Monuments and Sites. The heritage sector looks forward to assisting in the addressing of these difficult issues . . .
< Your signature>
Submission should be sent to: email@example.com. Please copy your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can develop a library of materials that went in to the UNFCC. Remember, submissions are due to the UNFCCC by May 16.
The cultural heritage community has valuable insights to contribute on this topic. If you think you might have relevant information to submit, please contact us at email@example.com for more details.