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Cultural Emergency Response: Protecting Culture in a Changing World

Produced in partnership with Prince Claus Fund, this panel discusses how to protect the art and icons of our past in future crises

TEFAF Talks are interactive panel discussions presented in collaboration with TEFAF’s partners to share knowledge and expertise.

Over 20 years ago the majestic Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were deliberately destroyed. Two years later, the Iraq National Museum was looted. These events shocked the world, and drew attention to the vulnerability of our cultural heritage and the urgency to protect it.

Since then, the protection of irreplaceable heritage in crisis situations has been actively taken up by cultural experts and civil society. The field of cultural emergency response has grown and professionalized, and although increasingly discussed by humanitarian actors and policy makers, rescuing and protecting culture is often not part of their disaster response actions. Meanwhile our museums, collections, sites, and cultural life are increasingly at risk as the number of conflicts and climate change-related disasters continue to rise. How can we protect the art and icons of our past in future crises? What can we do to prepare? And why is it so important to prevent their loss?

In this panel of experts, Sanne Letschert, head of Cultural Emergency Response (CER) reflects on these questions in conversation with CER’s partners, Khan Agha Dawoodzai (Afghanistan) and Linda Lainvoo (Estonia). Based on their training as cultural first aiders and on the ground experience in Eastern Europe and the MENA region, our experts discuss the urgent need and practicalities of the protection of culture in crisis situations now and in the future. The panel is introduced by Bijan Rouhani, EAMENA senior researcher at the University of Oxford and CER Advisor.

The Prince Claus Fund’s Cultural Emergency Response (CER) was founded directly in response to the events that took place 20 years ago. Ever since, the fund has actively provided ”first aid” to cultural heritage under threat by conflict and disaster. Acting as a cultural ambulance, it offers quick support and expertise to local actors to stabilize, rescue, and prevent further damage. With TEFAF as a close partner since 2008, CER has saved hundreds of heritage sites, collections, and spaces all over the world. The fundraiser at the TEFAF fairs this year is in support of this important work.


Linda Lainvoo, Art Heritage Field/Estonian National Heritage Board

Khan Agha Dawoodzai, executive director, Bureau for Rights Based Development (BRD)

Introduction by Bijan Rouhani, senior researcher at EAMENA, University of Oxford

Moderated by Sanne Letschert, Head of Cultural Emergency Response (CER), Prince Claus Fund

This TEFAF Talk in partnership with Prince Claus Fund was part of TEFAF Maastricht 2022’s programming and recorded live on May 26, 2022.

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