International Day of Monuments and Sites 2024: Disasters & Conflicts Through the Lens of the Venice Charter

At the General Assembly 2023 in Sydney, the theme of Disaster and Conflict Resilient Heritage – Preparedness, Response and Recovery was chosen as the theme for the Triennial Scientific Plan 2024-2027. As ICOMOS develops a roadmap for capacity building for “disaster and conflict resilient heritage” for its members and the wider heritage community and gets ready to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Venice Charter (31 May 2024), we look back on our shared inheritance from this very charter, and ahead as we ask ourselves what the pragmatic needs of heritage practice are today.

Against this background one may ask: what is the role of the Venice Charter in these tumultuous times? Is the Venice Charter still fit for purpose?

The Venice Charter emerged in 1964, two decades after WWII and in an age that promised limitless progress and economic development. Six decades later, we face a climate emergency, a growing number of natural disasters as well as conflicts destroying cultural sites and displacing communities on a massive scale.

The intention in conserving and restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less as works of art than as historical evidence” (Article 3) while maintaining them on a “permanent basis” (Article 4).

The International Day for Monuments and Sites (IDMS), celebrated each year on 18 April , provides us with a unique opportunity to raise awareness of this foundational instrument which is at the core of ICOMOS’ history and identity.

ICOMOS will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Venice Charter in 2024, which will feature as a key narrative to ICOMOS events through the year. The IDMS will kick off the official celebration, leading up to the anniversary of the Venice Charter on 31 May.

The Scientific Symposium (Brazil, November 2024) of the ICOMOS General Assembly, provides a platform to transition from the current Triennial Scientific Plan (Climate Change Reboot) to the 2024-2026 Triennial Scientific Plan (Disaster and Conflict Resilient Heritage – Preparedness, Response and Recovery). It also offers the opportunity to conclude the celebration of the Venice Charter and feature it as one of the themes of the Symposium.

ICOMOS members and heritage professionals are welcome to (i) consider the evolution of conservation practice since the Venice Charter; (ii) reflect on the impacts of the Venice Charter on conservation practice around the world;  (iii) engage debate on its suitability for addressing the challenges of a climate emergency, conflicts and natural disasters.

Some of the activities might include inventorying, collecting data on losses and damages and assessment of vulnerabilities; understanding risks and building corresponding capacities; collaboration between stakeholders; communication between relevant national sectors such as heritage and disaster risk management sectors; traditional knowledge on disaster risk mitigation and preparedness; successful practices and examples in adaptation, mitigation and preparedness.