Managing for potential project impacts on cultural heritage is a crucial component in determining how your project will be perceived by local communities. Yet it is often an overlooked necessity, based in part on limited knowledge of the local context by project planners, who are often far away from where activities will happen and who often don’t fully realize what constitutes “cultural heritage” in the international context. The major development banks, such as in the IFC’s Performance Standard 8, divide cultural heritage into tangible heritage (physical items, like ruins or shrines) and intangible heritage (non-physical traditions, like rituals or community practices). Clearly, these two categories can contain a myriad of actual items and practices that could be affected by the project. Hence, the conditions and needed actions to identify and preserve cultural heritage will always be radically different between localities. Besides, what happens if the project unexpectedly comes across artifacts or bones while constructing facilities?
Central to CCCS’ approach to identifying and managing for impacts to cultural heritage is utilizing local on-the-ground expertise in combination with our extensive knowledge of international cultural heritage policies and the expectations of IFIs. We work with clients in a step-by-step process to cost-effectively identify what cultural heritage might be affected by the project (if any), and to design preservation plans that are scaled to the project context. This way, projects can minimize the often high operational costs of discovering too late that cultural heritage was affected.
The general sequence employed by CCCS for determining what a project needs to do to avoid or minimize impacts to cultural heritage is:
- Desk Screening: The first step is to research the history of the project area, in an initial attempt to determine the likelihood of the project encountering any cultural heritage in its operations. CCCS employs well-respected professionals with grounded experience of the area to conduct this initial screening, which determines whether a field-based Cultural Heritage Assessment is necessary.
- Cultural Heritage Assessment: If an assessment is necessary, CCCS employs experienced anthropologists and/or archaeologists to manage field team investigations into what cultural heritage sites exist in the project area. This assessment is used to determine what cultural heritage preservation actions would be necessary.
- Cultural Heritage Preservation Plan: After all the necessary assessments, we work closely with our clients and local communities to define a comprehensive plan for the actions needed to preserve cultural heritage that may be affected by the project.
Whatever the results of the screening and field-based assessments are, CCCS helps clients define a Chance Finds Protocol for situations where the project unexpectedly discovers potential cultural heritage in the course of activities (usually construction, where time is your critical commodity).