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Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage and sustainable tourism: drivers of poverty reduction and shared prosperity

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia. (Photo by Justin Smith / Flickr CC)
Old City of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia. (Photo: Justin Smith / Flickr CC)

Today, we celebrate the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This year, the day focuses on Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism, which underlines the important linkage between culture and cities: Culture, identity, and a people-centered approach are central to building the urban future we want and ensuring sustainable urban development.

In relation to the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda this day also presents a unique opportunity to celebrate the long-standing partnership between the World Bank and UNESCO in the area of culture and sustainable development. 

The recently-launched UNESCO Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development titled Culture: Urban Future has brought to the forefront of the global discussion the critical role that culture should play in achieving sustainable urbanization, especially over the coming years when one billion people are expected to move to cities by 2030. Culture does not necessarily come in the list of Top 10 issues for sustainable urban development, but it is.

Culture is an essential component of the safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban settlements everybody wants to live in. Culture should be at the core of new approaches for people-centered cities, quality urban environments and integrated policy-making.

Specifically, culture contributes to urban development in four aspects. All of them linked to poverty eradication and shared prosperity in a sustainable manner:

In China, conserving the past helps the poor build a brighter future

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
How cultural heritage and sustainable tourism help reduce poverty
 
China has seen a booming tourism industry during the last few decades, thanks to a fast-developing economy and growing disposable personal income. In 2015 alone, the travel and tourism sector contributed to 7.9% of China’s GDP, and 8.4% of the country’s total employment. Not surprisingly, cultural heritage sites were among the most popular tourist destinations.

But beyond the well-known Great Wall and Forbidden City, many cultural heritage sites are located in the poorer, inland cities and provinces of the country. If managed sustainably, tourism in these areas can serve as a unique opportunity to help local communities—especially ethnic minorities, youth, and women—find jobs, grow incomes, and improve livelihoods.
 
“[Sustainable tourism] is not only the conservation of the cultural assets that are very important for the next generations to come, but, also, it’s the infrastructure upgrading, it’s the housing upgrading, and it is the social inclusion to really preserve the ethnic minorities’ culture and values – it is an interesting cultural package that is very valuable for countries around the world,” says Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, a Senior Director of the World Bank.
 
To help reduce poverty and inequality in China’s lagging regions, the World Bank has committed to a long-term partnership with China on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism—with the Bank’s largest program of this kind operating around 20 projects across the country. These projects have supported local economic development driven by cultural tourism.
 
“Over the years, the program has helped conserve over 40 cultural heritage sites, and over 30 historic urban neighborhoods, towns, and villages,” according to Judy Jia, a Beijing-based Urban Analyst.
  
Watch a video to learn from Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Judy Jia how cultural heritage and sustainable tourism can promote inclusive growth and boost shared prosperity in China, and what other countries can learn from this experience.



Also available in: 中文

Innovating with the past: How to create resilience through heritage

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
Demonstration of the firefighting system in the Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan, by the temple staff and the R-DMUCH professors. (Photo by Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank)
Demonstration of the firefighting system in the Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan, by the temple staff and the R-DMUCH professors. (Photo: Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank)
Bosai (防災) means disaster risk reduction or management, and it became our word of reference. As a group of professionals from disaster risk and cultural heritage management backgrounds visiting Japan, we used it in activities, as nicknames, and shouted in unison every time a group photo was taken. It represents a lesson that Japan has learned very well. Disasters have been part of the Japanese experience since the beginning of history. The Kobe Earthquake in 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011 are just two recent examples of disasters from which Japan recovered under the motto “build back better.” On November 5 we will be marking the World Tsunami Awareness Day, and I cannot think of a better word than Bosai to capture its significance.

In an environment rife with natural disasters, Japan recognizes that climate change is a tangible reality that increases the intensity and frequency of these disasters. The country knows very well the threat they pose not only to its people, economy, or infrastructure, but also to its cultural heritage.

Intangible culture is equally important, especially helping people in the recovery process and ensuring that we learn from the past. Take for instance the example of ancient local knowledge used around the world, and ask yourself: are we listening to our ancestors’ warnings?

Why cultural diversity matters to development

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Culture is an essential component of each and every society. It is the fabric that weaves communities together and gives them their unique identity. Acknowledging and factoring in cultural diversity is essential to working efficiently with our client countries and adapting interventions to the local context.
 
Embracing cultural diversity, especially through the preservation of cultural heritage assets, also brings tangible economic benefits. Preserving or repurposing historic landmarks in downtown cores, for instance, can make cities more vibrant, attract new firms, and foster job creation. In addition, the preservation of cultural assets plays a key part in supporting sustainable tourism, a sector that has significant potential for reducing poverty in both urban and rural settings.
 
On this World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, Ede Ijjasz and Guido Licciardi tell us more about the role of culture and its importance to the World Bank's mission.
 
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.

Campaign Art: Idols that protect their worshipers, and the ocean

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

During the Ganesh Festival in India, tons of idols representing the elephant-headed god are immersed in the ocean. The paint and other elements used for the making of these idols get blended in the water and pollute and kill the marine life of the bay.

SPROUTS Environment Trust, an environmental NGO in India came up with a very original solution to this problem and their initiative took off:
 
#GodSaveTheOcean

Learning from Dublin: Urban Cultural Heritage as Differentiator

Rana Amirtahmasebi's picture

IFSC Dublin, IrelandA few weeks ago, John O’Brien, the chief strategist for Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency, was at The World Bank, Washington DC to address an event on the role of cultural heritage and historic cities in Local Economic Development. The theme of the event was creating jobs by supporting historic cities and cultural heritage. Urban Sector Manager Abha Joshi-Ghani began the day’s session by underlining the significance of cultural heritage in city development: “We have started to look at cities as drivers of entrepreneurship and innovation.  It is important to understand how cities attract skilled people and industries to create jobs and what role they play in economic growth. Therefore it is very helpful to find linkages between cultural heritage assets and job creation.”

The Art of War: Cultural Policies and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Are post-conflict societies that foster, promote, and develop their cultural industries providing important reconciliation benefits to their communities? If so, should governments make cultural policy a vital part of their post-conflict reconstruction plans?

After the traumatic experience of war, a number of policymakers may consider health, security, food, and shelter as the highest priorities without much consideration for culture. However, what many leaders in post-conflict zones often forget is that a conflicted, divided, and wounded population often compromises real prospects for peace and stability. Consequently, I argue that policies that encourage the development and growth of the cultural industries should be a critical part of post-conflict reconciliation efforts.

Cities and the Human Spirit

Dan Hoornweg's picture

I’m not Catholic. Not even much of a practicing Christian, but I must confess I felt a little chill the other night walking past Köln’s Cathedral. Not from the cold of the night, nor from fear. My engaging German hosts had just informed me the Cathedral was built with sufficient grandeur to house the relics of the Three Magi spirited away from Milan in 1164. For hundreds of years pilgrims from around the world have converged on the Cathedral, adding to the 20,000 visitors a day. The site is sacred and steeped in history. For a few years it was even the tallest building in the world until eclipsed by the Washington Monument in 1884. I couldn’t escape the Cathedral’s history as we walked past it on this cool, clear October night.

Money or Art?

Christine Sedky's picture

So when I started to work with the khayameya I realized that my intention and the intentions of the khayameya workers were different. Not different in that we couldn’t agree, but just coming from different perspectives, which in the end turned out to be complementary. I had this idealistic, ambitious vision of simultaneously retaining craftsmanship, reviving cultural heritage, creating employment opportunities, etc…. For them, it is simply a source of income.

Decisions, decisions

Christine Sedky's picture

My first 6 weeks of officially working for Ayadi Organization I did on-the-ground research of various crafts around Egypt.  I was looking to find a craft that has been passed down for hundreds of years and that would benefit from working with Ayadi.  My vision was not to create something new.  I didn’t want something redundant or to recreate the wheel if it had already been created and spinning, but rather to build on others' work and make more impact.