Culture: crucial for mental survival of people struck by disasterPhoto Iwana Chronis

Culture is not a luxury?

CER offers ‘first aid’ to global cultural heritage that has been damaged or destroyed by man-made or natural disaster. CER considers culture to be a basic human need and therefore an essential element of humanitarian emergency relief. Culture can provide a sense of hope and consolation for people in need, and is therefore crucial for the mental survival of people struck by disaster.

The earthquake that hit the North West of Pakistan on 8 October 2005

CER immediately started an investigation via the network of the Prince Claus Fund to identify objects of cultural heritage that were affected by the quake. As the winter season had already started in these mountain areas, the North West of Pakistan was inaccessible for further research until the start of Spring 2006. At the request of the Prince Claus Fund, a team of archaeologists from Lahore – headed by Yasmin Cheema – started an inventory of the damaged cultural properties in the affected area in April 2006. CER generally seeks to offer assistance to cultural heritage within six months after a disaster The earthquake in Pakistan showed that each emergency situation is different and therefore each CER action should be considered in terms of the feasibility of these specified periods.

The flooding of several rivers in Surinam in May 2006

In cooperation with the Stichting Surinaams Museum and the Stichting Gebouwd Erfgoed Suriname, CER currently does research in the affected regions in Surinam. Its goal is to identify cultural heritage that has been damaged or destroyed by flooding. The cultural heritage mainly concerns traditional wooden architecture, altars, ceremonial sacrificial places and burial grounds. These cultural properties are all eligible for support: CER understands cultural heritage as material, formal and informal. That is to say, all objects of cultural significance for communities.

The recent earthquake in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Immediately after the earthquake, several individuals contacted CER for support to rescue objects of cultural heritage in the Yogyakarta region. The quake not only cost many lives, also buildings and cultural properties were destroyed, including some on the World Heritage list. Immediately following the disaster, heritage organisations– in cooperation with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) –carried out an assessment of the situation. Based on this assessment, CER will undertake emergency relief actions.