Key findings: The protection of intangible cultural heritage has increased in prominence in recent years. Natural disasters and man-made disasters have destroyed and threatened much tangible and intangible cultural heritage (e.g. building typologies and skills, handicraft traditions, communal livelihoods and traditions, social relationships and ecological balances). Much of the literature and comments from heritage experts stress the inter-relationship between tangible and intangible culture. However they note that international and national protection efforts in disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction are still largely focused on preserving built culture, for example monuments.
Moreover, oftentimes international interventions have not only failed to protect cultural heritage, but have contributed to their destruction. A common failure is the refusal by international donors to support the repair and reconstruction of traditional vernacular housing. Instead, generic and standardised housing have been imposed that do not address the needs of local inhabitants.
Furthermore, the literature stresses the importance of involving local communities in reconstruction efforts post-disaster: only efforts that incorporate local needs and draw on local values, building technologies and skills will be sustainable.