Art and Disaster

The images of Paris underwater and the immediate action from the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay to close their doors to protect their world-class art collections make a clear connection between disaster risk reduction and heritage conservation. How often do we see the words 'art' and 'disaster' in the same sentence? Not often, despite the fact that they are interlaced.

The Mona Lisa by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, part of the collection of the Louvre Museum in Paris The fact that a flood in Paris has triggered this alarm for museums highlights that in case of extreme weather events such as floods, but also droughts, it's not only about protecting human lives, infrastructure and economic loss, it's also about our cultural heritage. The UN Organization for Education and Culture (UNESCO) - which coincidentally is based in Paris - together with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have been looking into the relationship between climate change, cultural heritage, tourism, economic development and sustainability. The UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has also been active on this front with its work on resilient cities which includes aspects of building codes and guidelines for heritage structures mixed together with private sector partnerships, urbanization and population density. We are looking at things like satellites and playgrounds, or energy grids and tourist attractions - things that we may not naturally place in the same bed.

And going forward this is exactly how it needs to be. We should start looking at things in a more integrated way. That's the beauty of the Agenda for Sustainable Development that world leaders signed up to. It's also at the heart of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. We can no longer afford to look at complex issues with narrow mind-sets. Or in other words, we should not try to look at our world's most pressing challenges with a low-resolution lens - especially if we already have the capacity for a hi-resolution view. Our new agenda is about the whole planet dealing with all of its issues in a global concerted way. It's not about one issue or another. So it's about art and disaster. It's about livelihoods and health, jobs and infrastructure. Ultimately it's about the '5Ps' - People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.

Today's floods in Paris are just one of the many reminders of the importance to quickly implement the 2030 agenda. If we manage to make progress toward a more sustainable future, we will have a better chance of weathering out the storms to come. And this means all of us! Everywhere!