SHELTER Peer Learning Visit Trip Outcomes

On September 12-14, 2022 we held a peer-learning experience with the SHELTER stakeholders of the SAVA open lab, more precisely the task group established by the International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC), visited and interacted with stakeholders from the SHELTER Dordrecht open lab in the Netherlands. This SHELTER peer-learning experience was a mechanism of learning-by-experiencing focusing in three topics: (i) flood risk management, (ii) cultural heritage protection, and (iii) emergency response. It included representatives of the relevant and responsible authorities from the SAVA open lab, as well as researchers, policymakers, public servants, practitioners from both regions, as well as UNESCO Chairholder and officers from UNESCO. The SHELTER stakeholders and SHELTER open labs (OLs) members visited several regions and organizations in the Netherlands, which provided different opportunities for learning through reflection on how different approaches can be taken to address this kind of problems.

The program was organized as follows:

  • Day 1. The SHELTER group visited several locations for the Dutch Delta Program – Room for the River (water safety and quality) with the objective of exchanging ideas on flood risk management strategies and learning different examples of nature-based solutions in urban/rural areas.

  • Day 2. The SHELTER group visited the SHELTER Dordrecht Open Lab and the city of Dordrecht. The discussion centered on the city of Dordrecht’s main strategies for protecting the old historic center from high water and on building and keeping awareness among inhabitants on the relevance of flood resilience and the role that the IMMERSITE tool developed under SHELTER could play a role in this. In the afternoon, the group visited the Kinderdijk Foundation at the Kinderdijk -Elseshout UNESCO World Heritage Site. At this site, Ms. Francesca Bampa from the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe presented on the activities of UNESCO and explained the interlinkages between the network (UNESCO sites, UNESCO Chairs, and Category 2 centers) and the activities of the SHELTER project. In addition, Prof. Dr. Fabio Castelli, Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair on “Prevention and Sustainable Management of Geohydrological Hazards” from the University of Florence, gave a lecture focusing on the activities done for the protection of cultural heritage from floods. From providing long-term risk mitigation strategy and modeling scenarios to structural solutions and cost-benefit analysis. The objective of the day's activities centered on exploring engagement strategies to involve cultural heritage owners and stakeholders. The SHELTER group reflected on non-structural measures (i.e., insurance, frameworks, warning systems) that are used to protect cultural heritage.

  • Day 3. The group visited to the Zeeuws Museum and to COVRA organization in the Dutch province of Zeeland. During these visits, the group reflected on different governance structures and responses in stressed situations. The SHELTER group reflected on the shared experiences by the Dutch stakeholders on how to engage with private companies in disaster response management methods, tools, and approaches.

The SHELTER peer-learning visit facilitated reflection among stakeholders by providing a learning-by-experiencing visit in which the SHELTER participants had the opportunity to reflect and exchange experiences with representatives from different organizations in the Netherlands. An important take-away is a deeper understanding of the Dutch involvement of local citizens as a crucial element in creating awareness and strategies for Cultural Heritage Protection. The Dutch experience showed the SHELTER participants how awareness plays a critical role in keeping citizens engaged in the prevention of floods and protection of cultural heritage. The different organizations visited, shared their experiences and the strategies through which they engage with the local people, highlighting the relevance of awareness as a tool for gaining and maintaining trust between the citizens, the government, and the private organizations. 

Thanks to the International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC), the Municipality of Dordrecht (the Netherlands), IHE Delft Institute for Water Education (the Netherlands) for the co-organization of this peer-learning visit. Thanks to the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe for their support and participation during the peer learning activities of SHELTER (EU grant agreement No 821282).

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