Background- The Hague Convention
The Hague Convention recognises that protection of cultural heritage is to the benefit of all peoples. The definition of cultural property is broad and includes moveable and immovable property of cultural signficance, whether in private or public ownership. Provision is made for an “International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection”.
Under certain circumstances refuges may be established and protected for moveable heritage. The contracting parties undertake to ensure immunity for items under special protection. The role of UNESCO within the convention is defined. The Hague Convention is supplemented by the 1st and 2nd Protocols. In the latter the concept of “enhanced protection” is defined and the List of Cultural Property Under Enhanced Protection replaces in effect the Register. Armed conflict can be either international or non-international.
The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, The Hague, 1954, in Chapter 1 Article 7.1 states: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to introduce in time of peace into their military regulations or instructions such provisions as may ensure observance of the present Convention, and to foster in the members of their armed forces a spirit of respect for the culture and cultural property of all peoples.”6 7.2 states: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to plan or establish in peacetime, within their armed forces, services or specialist personnel whose purpose will be to secure respect for cultural.
ICOM and Blue Shield
The Blue Shield is the emblem specified in the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to identify and protect cultural sites from attack during armed conflict. [Article 16.1]. The focus of Blue Shield has been expanded in recent years to include working towards protection and safeguarding culture heritage from natural disasters.
The International Committee of Blue Shield (ICBS) was established in 1996 by the four “pillar” organisations: ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), ICOM (International Council of Museums), IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) and ICA (International Council on Archives). CCAAA (Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations) joined in 2005. Under the 2nd Protocol of the Hague Convention ICBS advises the inter-governmental Committee for Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) works in partnership with other international bodies to
- protect the world’s cultural heritage through preventive measures
- respond to emergency situations that may threaten cultural heritage
- facilitate international responses to threats or emergencies
- provide training of experts at national and regional levels
- work toward protection and safeguarding of cultural heritage against flood, fire and natural disasters
The Association of National Committees of Blue Shield (ANCBS) was established in 2006, by the 2006 Hague Blue Shield Accord which clearly defines the respective roles of the National Committees, ANCBS and ICBS and extends the remit to natural disasters.
The national committees set their own priorities within the overall framework of ICBS/ANCBS and each works slightly differently and different models for membership are used, beyond the representation of the “pillar” organisations.
For a number of years the UK has been on the point of ratifying the Hague Convention, but this has not yet been achieved.
This year, as Britain's museums commemorate the start of the first World War, ICOM UK is encouraging members to write to their local MP's asking them to support to the ratification of The Hague Convention and its 1954 and 1999 Protocols and to seek parliamentary time for the amended Bill to be brought before parliament. A draft letter is available here to download and sign.