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Iran:Cultural Heritage as an instrument for Post-Earthquake Reconstruction

© UNESCO/ M. Bouchenaki
Bam after the earthquake of December 26th 2003

“All stakeholders were introduced to a new approach towards the role of culture in development.  In this new approach, cultural conservation was regarded as an important instrument of development—in fact it was what made development sustainable.”

- H E Majid E’temadi, Governor of Bam County.

On 26 December 2003, The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bam was struck by a devastating earthquake that would claim 26,000 lives and leave 60,000 more without homes. 

The post-earthquake situation of Bam presented the Islamic Republic of Iran with the grave challenge of how to preserve the identity of an ancient cultural landscape and heritage, while meeting the pressing need for rapid reconstruction. 

The government turned to UNESCO to co-ordinate international assistance for the reconstruction of Bam’s cultural heritage, within the Joint Iran-United Nations Appeal launched on 8 January 2003.  Japan responded with funds for UNESCO to rapidly mobilize the expertise for planning and conserving Bam’s earthen cultural heritage. 

These funds would soon be complemented by further key support notably from Italy, the World Heritage Emergency Fund, the World Bank, and the Japan Bilateral Co-operation Cultural Grant for Arg-e Bam. 

To safeguard its outstanding universal value, Bam and its Cultural Landscape were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2005 on an emergency basis.  This action not only confirmed the universal value of the site, but it also underscored a common responsibility to safeguard that value. UNESCO, through its Tehran Cluster Office, brought together all stakeholders to develop the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for Bam. 

The elaboration of the CMP has enabled the UNESCO Tehran Office to further advocate the integration of cultural heritage within a comprehensive development process. UNESCO Tehran Office has since enabled constructive partnership amongst diverse public and private stakeholders to support sustainable urban development, integrating heritage conservation and disaster risk mitigation for Iranian historic cities.

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