A new World Bank and UNESCO joint report highlights that culture is often overlooked as an element in rebuilding cities which were devastated by war, disasters, or other forms of urban distress. Culture includes “art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions, and beliefs”. Investment in cultural spaces and heritage and help to connect communities in post-conflict areas and improve disaster recovery. The authors also argue that the early investments in the reconstruction process will eventually pay off when the city becomes more attractive to investment and tourism, thereby boosting economic growth.
The report includes recommendations on how to include culture into the people-centric and place-centric policies to consider values, needs, and priorities of people. Cities will need to be adept at this process because more people will be living in cities, and cities are prone to climate-change-related disasters, as well as resource conflicts.
According to World Bank, cities need to acknowledge that culture is important to holding their societies together, and rebuild sites that mean the most to locals. There will also be a need to balance priorities of providing for basic necessities, and efforts in promoting artistic expressions to help the population process their trauma.
Read the full article on City Lab: The Secret Ingredient of Resilient Cities: Culture
Culture is often overlooked in the measure of success of cities as people tend to place emphasis on things that are quantifiable. It can be difficult to measure culture in a meaningful way. However, culture holds the narrative and stories shared by a group of people. It is through these shared narratives that people find a sense of belonging and hopes for the future. These intangible elements of a society helps it to remain resilient, which is the crucial ability for them to bounce back after setbacks.
Creating artifacts to display culture in the form of museum, creative spaces, and cultural sites not only helps in attracting investments and tourism, but also serves as a reminder to locals. Without engaging the people – the soul of the city – the social fabric remains thin and brittle. Culture is the woven piece of similarities and differences celebrated as a whole, and it will remain relevant as it grows with the society.
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- In a relatively disaster-free society like Singapore, how necessary is it for us to be resilient?
- What more can be done in our society to build resilience?
- ‘ravaged’: severely damaged; devastated