Partner organisation: Cultural Heritage Emergency Network (CHEN), an initiative of the Caribbean Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives (CARBICA)
Countries of action: All Caribbean Sea islands and Suriname
Overall overview: The Caribbean is highly vulnerable to natural hazards. Tropical storms and hurricanes, like those endured in the northern Caribbean in 2017, are a reoccurring threat, as are floods, coastal erosion, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and all manner of other extreme weather and environmental events. Most of these threats are becoming more frequent and/or intense because of the climate crisis. At the same time, some places in the region are experiencing increasing political unrest and illegal practices such as looting and sand mining, which have a large impact on the region's (archaeological) heritage.
Extent and sources of risks: Very high threat with regular occurrences of crises due primarily to extreme weather and other environmental hazards.
Heritage at risk: Documentary heritage, built heritage, museums and collections, intangible heritage, and archaeological sites.
Main goals and activities:
In recent years, memory institutions in the Caribbean have experienced the disastrous effects of the global climate crisis and other man-made disasters with markedly increased severity. The full extent of the region’s emerging needs for infrastructural development in cultural emergency response became apparent in the aftermath of the hurricane season of 2017 (which included Hurricanes Irma, Dorian and Maria). This was an urgent ‘wakeup call’ for heritage institutions and organisations to respond to the challenges posed by climate change through risk mitigation and adaptation.
The Caribbean Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (CARBICA) responded by uniting stakeholders and vocalising the growing threat to heritage in the region, ultimately leading to the establishment of the Caribbean Heritage Emergency Network (CHEN) in 2019. CHEN’s foundational goal was to facilitate regional response to emergencies threatening cultural property by coordinating regional experts across all fields of heritage, promoting risk preparedness, crisis mitigation and prevention practices, and enhancing post-disaster response mechanisms. In recent years, CHEN has laid groundwork for this by training new experts in crisis preparedness and response, advising regional stakeholders on protective policymaking, and raising awareness about heritage preservation urgency, among other activities.
In collaboration between CHEN and CER, the Regional Hub will aim to facilitate the safeguarding of cultural heritage throughout the Caribbean region on four levels: improving deployable capacity, enhancing regional mapping, strengthening regional response systems, and formalising operational infrastructures. Crucially, it will also always be active in responding to emergent disasters in whatever capacities it can.