Composing trust #1: Cultural heritage protection in crisis

Website podcast header

This podcast addresses the European Union’s role and actions in cultural heritage protection in times of crises, with our guests Aparna Tandon, Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, Johanna Leissner, and Giovanni De Siervo.

The aim of the episode is, on the one hand, to highlight the importance of cultural heritage protection (and prevention) and discuss this issue from multiple perspectives, such as climate change, questions of decolonisation, the role of civil society and grassroot initiatives, among others.

On the other hand, this episode provides an anchor and access to the topic to a wider audience. Participants’ expertise and devotedness offers you an insight to the most crucial aspects of cultural heritage protection.

Speakers bios and sources of inspiration, and transcript


As Senior Programme leader, Aparna Tandon leads ICCROM’s flagship programme on First Aid and Resilience for Cultural Heritage in Times of Crisis. She is developing ICCROM’s action on protecting heritage from conflicts and disasters, which engages communities in risk prone regions to promote climate action, peace and resilience through heritage safeguard. She co-chairs INSARAG (International Search and Rescue Advisory Group) Flexible Response Subgroup on Heritage Safeguard, and has developed multilingual guidelines and tools for diverse audiences.

Link to LinkedIn profile

Podcast moderator: Szilvia Nagy

> Read more

Sources of inspiration and references:

  • Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan: The two Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001., but the international heritage experts have been dismissive to the reconstruction pleas from local Hazaras
  • Joint ICOMOS-ICCROM mission to Ukraine: museums are being kept alive despite not being bomb-proof or flood-proof, as we have entered the fifth generation of warfare
  • ICCROM app to collect data on damaged cultural heritage: helps to gather, triangulate and analyse damage and risk assessment data for affected heritage sites, to verify damage, as well as to define priorities for intervention and to develop cost estimates for heritage first aid and recovery


Giovanni Fontana Antonelli is an architect and urban planner specialised in the safeguarding of cultural heritage, historic towns and cultural landscapes.
From 1998 to 2013 he worked as a UNESCO Programme Specialist at the World Heritage Centre and in various countries of Africa and the Middle East, and from 2014 to 2019 as a Senior Consultant for various United Nations agencies, especially in conflict and post-conflict contexts. He is currently Chief Executive Officer of the non-profit organisation Archi.Media Trust.

Link to LinkedIn profile

Podcast moderator: Szilvia Nagy

> Read more

Sources of inspiration and references:

  • EEAS high-level conference on “The role of the European Union on the Protection and Enhancement of Cultural Heritage in conflict and post-conflict contexts and mediation”: Iraq can be considered a paradigm of our failure, paradigm of our hopes and the collapse of these hopes
  • Millennium Development Goals in Palestine: by magic, culture and cultural heritage entered the agenda from the main door and sparked discussion


Johanna was trained as a chemist, and has nearly 20 years of research experience on climate change impact on cultural heritage. Her further topics of interest include: green Museums and sustainability, environmental pollution effects on stained glass windows. Johanna is currently the Chair of the EU OMC Group “Cultural Heritage Resilience for Climate Change”.

Link to LinkedIn profile

Podcast moderator: Szilvia Nagy

> Read more

Sources of inspiration and references:

  • COP27: it is important that cultural heritage is taken up not only by the ministers of culture, which they are doing right now thanks to all the initiatives from Italy, but by all the ministers
  • EU Open Method of Coordination (OMC) report “Strengthening cultural heritage resilience for climate change”: 83 good practice examples were collected to showcase what can be done, how we can adapt and how we can contribute to mitigation
  • Climate for Culture project: the survey found that there were not many visitors who relate climate change and cultural heritage, thus cultural heritage institutions have a responsibility to raise awareness


Giovanni De Siervo is an expert on humanitarian assistance and disaster risk management. Currently he is senior advisor on international affairs at the Civil Protection Department of the Italian Government and the Project director of PROCULTHER-NET.

He previously worked for NGOs, academic institutions and International Organisations, gaining international field experience in the Balkans, in Africa and in South America.

Link to LinkedIn profile

Podcast moderator: Szilvia Nagy

> Read more

Sources of inspiration and references:

  • PROCULTHER-NET: aims at multidisciplinary and risk-based exchange practices in the field of cultural heritage protection in an emergency, strengthening the link between science and decision-making, building a common language
  • Carabinieri and Interpol: leading organisations in counter-terrorism and in particular to counter illicit trafficking, therefore strengthening the fight against illicit trafficking and looting
  • Union Civil Protection Mechanism: the network of disaster management authorities of all the member states of the European Union as the potential to create a community of practice for cultural heritage protection

Damien Helly (00:00): You are listening to the Composing trust podcast, by culture Solutions – a series on European cultural action with the world. Is Europe still attractive? How is it perceived by outside the EU? How do Europeans promote culture together in the world, with which partners? What have they learned, what is their experience?

Our Composing Trust podcast series will address these issues. Welcome to you all! My name is Damien Helly, the co-author of this Composing trust series, by culture Solutions. Today, we will follow our colleague Szivlia Nagi in a roundtable on cultural heritage protection in crisis situations.

Szilvia Nagy (00:55): I would like to warmly welcome our audience to the culture Solutions podcast series. Today, we will discuss the questions related to cultural heritage protection in times of crisis with our guests Aparna Tandon, Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, Johanna Leissner and Giovanni De Siervo. I am Szilvia Nagy from culture Solutions and a PhD candidate in public policy at Central European University, and I will guide you as a moderator on this podcast session to start a discussion.

I would like to address the first question to Aparna Tandon. As a senior programme leader, Aparna Tandon leads Rome’s flagship programme on First aid and resilience for Cultural Heritage in times of crisis. She is developing economic action on protecting heritage from conflicts and disasters. Aparna, based on the roundtable discussion on 12th of October, which catchword would you use to summarise urgent priorities in cultural heritage protection?

Aparna Tandon (01:55): Thank you, Szilvia. Thank you for inviting me. Catch phrases that I would like to use to summarise urgent priorities in cultural heritage protection are: intersectionality of risks confronting heritage and people, and people-centred approaches to developing capacities for managing these risks.

You know, we are living in the age of overlapping as well as intersecting disasters and conflicts where risk drivers such as climate change and unplanned development, intensifying the negative impacts both on people and heritage. We need conceptual frameworks, training and tools in cultural heritage sector to recognise this complexity and develop integrated strategies to reduce risks of disasters and conflicts for heritage and people, as well as work to tackle the climate crisis together. For example, in risk-prone countries such as Nepal, Haiti, Guatemala, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, we need training and tools to undertake comprehensive risk assessments for heritage that take into consideration wider social, economic and environmental context.

Equally important is the need for greater investment in engaging local populations and developing their capacities. And to do this, we have to focus more on the diverse ways in which heritage is used by different groups to improve their present condition or to negotiate their present as well as future power imbalances when we select heritage to protect in the aftermath of a disaster or a crisis. And most of the choices that are made to safeguard heritage are usually expert-driven, that tend to undermine locally significant meanings and uses of heritage. I would like to cite here the example of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Szilvia Nagy (04:07): Thank you very much, Aparna, for the great insight and also for the rich examples. This is a really great start to understand also the global context of this question. Now, to continue our discussion, I would like to turn to Giovanni Fontana Antonelli. Giovanni is an architect and urban planner, specialised in the safeguarding of cultural heritage, historic towns and cultural landscapes. He is currently chief executive officer of the non-profit organisation Archi.Media Trust. Giovanni, welcome. What is your take on the same question? Which catchword or catch phrases would you use to summarise urgent priorities in the cultural heritage protection?

Giovanni Fontana Antonelli (04:48): I would like to to throw a few dichotomies which I found very, very, very, very useful. It’s a little glossary if you want. I would like to emphasise, for instance, the role of communities, local communities vis-à-vis national governments and authorities. I would like to emphasise the role of cities and villages or rural communities vis-à-vis national authorities, local versus global action versus legislations, management versus policies. And in one word, the support to local communities to increase the knowledge-based capacities to manage the cultural heritage for the sake of transmitting it to future generations. In other words, the definition of the sustainable development made by the Brundtland Report in 1987. I forgot to mention youth and women also as a very important driving force for for this change. Thank you.

Szilvia Nagy (05:50): Thank you very much, Giovanni, for this rich answer and also for sensitising us for to many other topics, introducing these dualities, which I think each of them could be on its own, opened up and discussed further. So there is something to take away from there already. But right now I would like to follow up on one of the topics you also mentioned and earlier also, Aparna – the question of climate change by also introducing our next guest. Johanna Leissner has trained as a chemist. She spent nearly 20 years on research on climate change impacts on cultural heritage. She is also the chair of the OMC group Cultural Heritage Resilience for Climate Change. Johanna, based on the roundtable discussion on 12th October, what catchword would you highlight for us or phrases or important issues that we should deal with in terms of cultural heritage protection?

Johanna Leissner (06:47): Yeah, thank you, Szilvi. We still have a lot of misunderstanding and not full comprehension about how important cultural heritage is for every one of us, for our societies, for our future. It is the memory of our civilisation. And imagine you are losing your memory. We are becoming an Alzheimer patient. That means we cannot anticipate the future. We cannot even handle the day-to-day actions. We cannot manage our life if we are losing our memory. And this is exactly what is at stake right now with the climate crisis. It is really at an unprecedented speed and scale that we are losing cultural heritage.

And for this reason I think we still need to promote cultural heritage on the highest political agenda. We have just concluded the COP27 and it is important that cultural heritage is taken up not only by the ministers of culture, which they are doing right now, thanks to all the initiatives from Italy. But we need also that cultural heritage is taken up by the ministers responsible for finance, ministers for economy, ministers for the environment, ministers for state aid. And this is not happening on a bigger scale, and that is the topic for the future.

Of course, we also have to engage with the citizens, but they are often much more aware of how important cultural heritage is. But when it comes to the biggest conferences and summits, cultural heritage is often still absent and that has a very important negative consequence. If it is absent, no finances, no budgets will be devoted to the big topic. How can we make our cultural heritage, our cultural heritage sites be the tangible or also intangible heritage? How can we adapt to climate change? And above all, what can we contribute to mitigate climate change? Because cultural heritage is not only a victim of climate change, but we can also provide solutions to tackle the climate crisis. We have to rely on traditional knowledge, on the knowledge of our indigenous societies because they can show us how our ancestors have coped with different climates, and that is a wealth of information and the untapped potential which we still have to exploit.

Szilvia Nagy (09:36): Thank you very much, Johanna. And thank you very much also to linking again the fields and and raising questions of different kinds of communities. And I think this is a good point to introduce our last guest, Giovanni De Siervo, who has experience with different communities. Giovanni is an expert on humanitarian assistance and disaster risk management. Currently, he is senior advisor on international affairs at the Civil Protection Department of the Italian Government and the project Director of PROCULTURE-NET. Giovanni, How do you see these questions were raised so far? What catchphrases catch words would you like to highlight for us?

Giovanni De Siervo (10:18): Good morning and thank you to to culture Solutions and to my previous speakers. What one of my takeaways from the conference we had recently is the fact that there is this huge number of stakeholders wanting to do something on cultural identity protection. But probably what is missing is a reference standard, a common language, and that’s something that probably we have to improve for the future. And for example, we heard before mentioning some of the initiatives of ICOM, for example, in this respect. And I could mention some of the outcome of the PROCULTURE project of today. So we have to work on sharing know-how and sharing the language, building that language. That’s something we have to do in peacetime. We have to be prepared for the next emergency, unfortunately. And that’s the first responsibility of local stakeholders, both at the national or local level, and also at international level. And now to do that, we have to work, for example, on emergency planning, on risk assessment, on building capacity, both national and international capacities. Of course, affected countries are always on the lead, either with the institutions or with the local community. So they have to be put on the front row.

Szilvia Nagy (11:49): Thank you very much. Are running to continue this discussion. I would like to get back to a partner and a partner based on your work at ICCROM and your recent mission to Ukraine. Could you tell us how the Europeans and the EU could contribute better to sharing knowledge in cultural heritage protection? And also, how could it be further supported by tools and apps? If I am well-informed, ICCROM is developing an app to geo localised damage on cultural heritage.

Aparna Tandon (12:21): And getting back to the same thread and picking up the threads of conversations from my fellow panellists, I would just like to highlight once again that there is the need to establish broken links, and I would really term them as broken links, between heritage and local populations and at the same time focus on what heritage can do to improve lives and promote sustainability. And this is also the case in Ukraine, but I think the EU can play a principal role and I will start from both institutions as well as local populations.

To give an example, I would like to cite the case of museum that I had the opportunity to visit when I was in and I joined the ICOMOS-ICCROM technical mission in July in Ukraine to assess the needs on the ground. And there this museum we visited, we saw that to keep the museum alive, the caretaker director who had just assumed charge and her staff continue to organise gatherings for the people, bringing food and encouraging them to talk about the history of the museum and the associations people have with this place. But this museum was damaged in a missile strike on 10th of October. All of the collections of the museums are packed and are in a basement, but there is no safe central storage which is bomb-proof or flood-proof where some of this collection can be moved.

And this is the case for all other museums that could be either struck by, you know, could be attacked or, you know, because they are next to a government building, or a military target, or if they are an intentional targeting of these buildings. So then in that case, where do these museums evacuate? And the same is case applies to archives and libraries.

And so what we need today is to understand that we have entered into the fifth generation of warfare, and we need some of the information that European Union and security forces have to create sector eyes, GIS-based risk map. So there is a lot of monitoring happening via satellite on damage to cultural heritage. But what we do not have is actionable information, which will also outline the risks that heritage has, both primary and secondary. Could the heritage be damaged in a flood? We also have, for example, Ukraine is exposed to climate risks. All of Ukraine is prone to flooding. So as winter comes, you know, institutions are shutting down for winter. They are already suffering the water from the war.

We need this kind of information and we need these kind of storages and we also need to train the heritage professionals, as well as our local population who are nearer to churches or community-held heritage, which is in their care. We need to also empower these communities who are on the frontlines and can be and are at the risk of sporadic attacks. So this gap is growing.

In collaboration with the local partners for Heritage Emergency Rescue Initiative and the Maiden Museum, we have customised damage and risk assessment forms for movable, immovable and intangible heritage. We have made an effort to make sure that these forms are not too much expert-centric and easy to fill out by anybody who has some basic knowledge about heritage. And they have been transferred on a secure mobile and web-based application which can be used both online and offline. The app is now made available on Android, iOS and web versions in both English and Ukrainian, as well as is being used and updated regularly.

So what is this app helping us to do? It is helping us to gather, triangulate and analyse damage and risk assessment data for affected heritage sites and to verify damage as well as define priorities for intervention and develop cost estimates for heritage first aid and recovery, which is very, very important. All governments need this kind of information and unfortunately this is not the case in Ukraine only. I think there is a very big gap today. Governments, communities and institutions are not prepared for undertaking rapid post-event damage and risk assessment heritage.

Szilvia Nagy (17:31): Thank you very much. And it’s really nice to learn to something so hands-on experiences that are so useful to us, as well to identify the risk and also together triangulate data on  risk assessment and to take this line of hands-on experiences further. I would like to turn now to Giovanni De Siervo. Giovanni, Italy is known to have cultural heritage protection expertise with carabinieri. Could you tell us about your Italian experience in sharing good practising culture and heritage protection please?

Giovanni De Siervo (18:07): Italy has a large, experienced cultural heritage protection, not only with the Carabinieri, which they provide a very high quality work, but also with our Ministry of Culture, with the Civil Protection and with other stakeholders. Such volunteers groups are, for example, dedicated to control our heritage protection. These are just few examples.

The reason is because we are from disaster-prone country. We had a long history of disasters and the lessons learned in our past. I don’t want to go back with that, but just if you think through the flooding of unknown event in Florence these days, it has become a global concern at the time. And for us it was a wake up call. We needed to be ready to deal with disasters, both natural and man-made. So we created a system, a system in which every institution and the organisation has a role to play as well as the Civil Protection and National Civil protection. We provide the coordination of all the different stakeholders in case of major disasters. And to do that, we start from what we call that the disaster management cycle from prevention to response and recovery. We work in all different sector. We have developed procedures, we have developed frameworks that have to be implemented by district, that are implemented by the different stakeholders.

A few years ago we also decided to try to run this part at the European level and at the international level. When we launched, first of all, the programme, the project, we had decided to propose to create a framework for protecting cultural heritage from every type of disasters at European level. So, as I was saying before, we said that it was so important that we identified as a critical need the importance of defining a common language and the reference standard for protecting cultural heritage also at European level. So we started with this process where we started to create a shared methodology from among a few European countries, in the beginning within the framework of the so-called Union Civil Protection Mechanism, which is the network of disaster management authorities, of all the member states of the European Union. And the project was successful and was very well perceived by both the community of civil protection disaster managers, and also the Ministry of Culture, because the approach of disaster management is very pragmatic.

We we are very much looking to solution to emerging problems. And so this approach was very well perceived also by the Ministry of Culture of the 27 member states of the European Union. And this is why now we are continuing to invest on the project, always within the framework of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism to create a community of practice for cultural heritage protection. Our plan is really to create a network of stakeholders and knowledge among professional and also individuals that the main institution and individuals to raise the awareness and the possibility to respond to crises both natural and man-made.

Szilvia Nagy (21:57): Thank you very much, Giovanni, for highlighting these very important points and also for bringing back the question of shared methodology, which is very important within the EU, within Europe, but also outside. And I think it has its particular challenges, but definitely a necessary thing that we should work on. And with that, I would like to turn to Johanna, as as an expert on cultural heritage and climate change. What do you think, how should we address climate change in the cultural heritage sector? What role should EU Europe take and EU take? And could we have like shared methodologies maybe also for global public goods as as climate?

Johanna Leissner (22:41): Thank you, Szilvi. I think we really have to start in the cultural heritage institutions, in the museums. So far, most of the awareness about climate change that it has an impact on cultural heritage comes from the research community. And I don’t see, I mean, please forgive me, but at least in Germany, and in what I know from the rest of Europe, I have not seen many museum directors, cultural heritage institution leaders, that make climate change their agenda a top priority. They have not yet fully understood that this topic is about security, also safety, about their own institutions.

And I think still here research has done a lot and in the OMC report we have collected 83 good practice examples to showcase what can be done, how we can adapt and how we can contribute to mitigation. And this is such an enormous wealth of inspiration. And this way we can upscale all these projects we have collected there, we can do an upscaling which can be transferred not only within Europe to different countries, but I think here also the EU has high responsibility to connect and to cooperate with many other regions in the world.

Just before COP27, I saw the results of some surveys they have undertaken in Africa, in Asia, and they were asking people who were mostly affected by climate change. But they said they didn’t even know about climate change, that these things they are seeing what is happening, they could not related to climate change. And again, I come back to my main topic, which is awareness raising information.

A few years ago we also did a visitor survey within the Climate for Culture Project. We asked visitors in different countries who were visiting cultural heritage sites “How aware are you about climate change that impacts also cultural heritage?”. And I must say the results were very disappointing, except the results from Venice, the visitors in Venice could relate very much the problems of Venice to climate change. But in other countries, in the UK, in Germany, in Sweden, Romania, there were not many visitors who said that they can relate climate change and cultural heritage. So even here in Europe we have to better disseminate the information on what is at stake.

I think we all have the responsibility, and especially cultural heritage institutions. They must become the change engines and they must show to this society, to their visitors, what they are doing to fight against climate change, that they encourage visitors to take green mobility to arrive at the museums, that they themselves behave sustainably. And I think we are right now on a very good way. But still there is a lot to do in the future and it cannot be done in the far future. We must do it. We must do it. Do it today.

Szilvia Nagy (26:13): Thank you very much for this perspective and very important message, you honour. I think it’s very, very important what you bring up here, awareness raising and knowledge sharing, and also that we should all take responsibility in it, on every field. And with that too, I would like to turn to Giovanni Fontana. How can the EU enhance its capacity to act in cultural heritage protection in crisis? So this is more or less like a follow-up that we have to the awareness raising, but what we do on the field and how can we apply also this knowledge in cultural heritage protection.

Giovanni Fontana Antonelli (26:53): Thank you very much. Well, I think that we do not have to reinvent the wheel every semester. Actually, a couple of years ago, upon initiative of a Damien, lead of culture Solutions, the European External Action Service organised a high-level conference on the role of the European Union on the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage in conflict and post-conflict contexts and mediation. This conference was then carried out in November 2020, and for this conference the EEAS commissioned a study about this role based on the example of Iraq.

Iraq was mentioned before by a partner. I worked and lived there for several years. I think it can be considered a paradigm, maybe a paradigm of our failure, paradigm of our hopes and the collapse of these hopes. But it is certainly a country which can be used as a paradigm, as a good case study. And in this study that was commissioned by the European Union, the team that work on it highlighted a few elements which I think are still valid today. And because the world is rapidly changing, but at the same time there are patterns, as in psychology, that are repeating themselves. You know, we have patterns that are seen again and again, maybe with with slight changes in because of the context that are changing but are repeated, and therefore, just taken from this document which is in front of me, where we had to envisage the EU strategy framework on cultural protection and enhancement in conflict and crisis zones solution for this crisis.

Well, we highlighted a few concepts. First of all, the prevention. That’s very important. Prevention works both for conflicts and for climate change. It is so important. We know that very well also, we witnessed it in the last three years, a major pandemic, the COVID 19. And we know very well that prevention is a key to mitigate the damage and the loss in particular for both for culture and heritage in this sense. So therefore, enhancing the culture cooperation. European Union has the means and also has the budget, the financial means to reach out to those countries in particular that are prone to instability and climate change.

The second concept that we felt the need to highlight and launch was the mediation and dialogue and negotiation. So to create cultural agreements, to establish a network of stakeholders, partners, grass-roots organisations, local communities, different stakeholders that could really create a sort of safety net because a network can be a safety net vis-à-vis the the catastrophes or the volatility of security conditions in in different countries.

And then the third concept that we highlighted was the crisis response and cultural heritage protection. So what is was more directly addressing the coordination for the response when a crisis erupts.

A fourth concept was the one to enhance access and transmission also of what we usually consider a bit less important than the tangible heritage, which is the intangible. The intangible assets are taking a major role now, especially in this type of world, where communities should be given a more important role.

And last but not least, a more direct action to counter-terrorism and in particular for heritage – to counter illicit trafficking, therefore strengthening the fight against illicit trafficking, looting, through the creation also of institutions. The Carabinieri was mentioned a few minutes ago. Carabinieri is a leading organisation in this, together with Interpol and other in other institutions. I think these are elements which can be considered. Lessons are still very, very valid to address this type of challenges.

Szilvia Nagy (31:55): Thank you very much, Giovanni. These are very important points and it’s very good that we have them all on the table. They also particularly leading us and answering already our next question. I would like to propose to all of you to close the session with a kind of takeaway message, and this would be the question what should be addressed next in the EU cultural heritage protection and promotion by whom and and how? And I would like to start with Aparna for this question.

Aparna Tandon (32:28): I think the the idea of intersectionality and the complexity has to be recognised at an EU level and we have to advance the discourse that we have presently on cultural heritage. As has been so eloquently pointed by Giovanni Fontana that we we need to, you know, understand all the dimensions, especially the peacebuilding and sustainability aspect of heritage.

As has been pointed out by Johanna, in order to enhance that potential, we need to recognise capacities that exist within communities because they have been marginalised in the expert centric discourse on heritage. And this means also having, developing a new conceptual framework or mental models where the boundaries between nature-culture are diminished and where heritage is not seen as a physical thing, but as a process that can help to democratise, as a cultural process that can help to democratise and address the root causes of conflicts, disasters and environmental degradation.

Because climate change is not just carbon in the air and unfortunately the discourse currently is very much focusing on the scientific, you know, like explanations and talking about emissions. But what is the cause of these emissions and how have we come to this level? It is very important. But I just want to say that climate change has a history. And right now climate change is inducing conflicts and disasters, threatening security and peace, both with cultural heritage and cultural barriers. So we need to think about how have we come here, and that climate change has a heritage too, an uncomfortable heritage, and that needs to be acknowledged as well.

Szilvia Nagy (34:47): I think it’s a very important message to take away with us as well. I would like to turn to you, Giovanni, and ask again the same question.

Giovanni Fontana Antonelli (34:55): I think that cultural heritage protection should be better positioned. I mean, I cannot but agree with Johanna’s vision and dream to bring this up to a very high level. I remember one thing I want to share with you one anecdote. In 2007-2008, I was working in Palestine for UNESCO. In the country team, a young country team, the UNESCO and in particular the culture sector of UNESCO, was not really in the agenda of the resident coordinator. They had a number of very, very urgent and important topics – the refugees crisis in Gaza, water scarcity. You know many, many, many of the things that, of course, are hijacking the agenda of the of the UN there.

And then something happened – the Spanish government launched, maybe you remember this, it launched a call for a fund called the Millennium Development Goals. And it was before the Sustainable Development Goals, the one by Kofi Annan in 2000. And my sector managed to win a bid for the culture and development thematic window, it was called this way – window on culture. And while on the other thematic windows – on livelihood, on agriculture, on labour, you know, major things – the country team of Palestine could not get funding from the Spanish fund, even during the Spanish fund MDG, and only gender equality and women’s empowerment got funding and culture and development.

So by magic, by magic!, culture and cultural heritage entered from the main door. The discussion was taken at the country level, at the national level by the country team, but also by the government of the Palestinian Authority. The Ministry of Planning never even imagined to talk about culture and heritage, and they were obliged somehow to to deal with us and to put in their agenda culture and heritage.

So why I’m telling this as an architect, it is important that our leaders, our organisations, those who are leading our organisation, are able to to put culture and heritage in the agenda. It is a real pity there is no sustainable development goal as goal on culture, there are several on natural heritage. There is not a single as the goal about culture and heritage. There is a target under goal 11, it is talking about the heritage and world heritage, but is not sufficient. So it would be very important to place culture in the core of the discussion.

Szilvia Nagy (38:08): Thank you very much, Giovanni. I would like to turn now to Johanna: what should be addressed next thing that you cultural heritage protection and promotion by whom and how?

Johanna Leissner (38:18): I have a dream! And the dream is that the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen calls for a cultural heritage summit inviting all the big leaders of the world, including the president of the Russian Federation, to discuss how important our cultural heritage is and how we can protect it in times of climate change. And I would like to call for next steps to invite influences. We need strong influences and support from the humanities because so far this topic is only driven by the natural sciences. We need to call for philosophers, artists, game developers to address this topic and make it visible to everyone in the world with every means we have. I hope this dream will come true in the future.

Szilvia Nagy (39:19): We really hope that there is a chance to have these dreams to come true. Thank you very much for all these amazing inputs and for your participation, for sharing your insights, experiences, expertise and dreams. And just a kind of small disclaimer before we say goodbye is that this podcast was prepared together with Hiba Touihri, Ina Kokinova and Damien Helly. Thank you very much and looking forward to sharing some more time with you.

Damien Helly (39:58): Thank you for listening to today’s episode of our Composing trust podcast by culture Solutions! If you liked it, you can subscribe and follow us on your favourite podcast platforms, and contact us at 

Don’t forget to read the cS Brief #12 that builds on the debate at the joint EUISS – culture Solutions round table on the topic, held on 12 October 2022 in Brussels.

cS Brief #12

Check the rest of podcast episodes of this series.

The views expressed in this podcast are personal and are not the official position of culture Solutions as an organisation.
Musical creation credits: Stéphane Lam