1954 Convention: New members elected to protect cultural property

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Palmyra Silvan-Rehfeld

Committee members were elected and other decisions essential to protecting cultural property in time of conflict were made during the statutory meetings of the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols, held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris 8 to 11 December 2015.

The three meetings were the 11th Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict,; the 6th Meeting of the Parties to the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention; and the 10th Meeting of the Committee for the Protection for Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which convened the twelve Members of the Committee (Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cambodia, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Mali, Morocco and The Czech Republic)  and observers.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova opened the 11th Meeting of the High Contracting Parties and highlighted the ties between protecting cultural heritage and preserving human dignity. Sharing good practices among parties was discussed, as was the importance of military training in the context of protecting cultural heritage in armed conflict.

At the 6th Meeting of the Parties, important decisions were taken: first, six Parties were newly elected to the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict for a four-year term until 2019: Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Morocco.

The 6th Meeting of the Parties also endorsed a new distinctive Emblem to mark cultural property and the modalities for its use. The new Emblem will ensure the recognition of cultural property enjoying the highest level of protection under international humanitarian law, and clarify legal certainty regarding criminal responsibility. The Parties also agreed to create a Special Account to bolster human resources of the Secretariat.

The Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which held its tenth meeting on 10 and 11 December, considered several issues, including the procedure for granting enhanced protection and developing synergies between the 1999 Second Protocol and UNESCO’s other Cultural Conventions.

The Committee concluded its session by adopting a Declaration condemning destruction of cultural heritage worldwide and calling upon the Parties, to cooperate with UNESCO and the United Nations in situations of serious violations of the Second Protocol.

The meetings were preceded by the first joint meeting of the Bureau of the 1954 Convention and the Bureau of the Subsidiary Committee of the 1970 Convention on Illicit Trafficking, to discuss ways to work together to raise awareness of the need to protect cultural heritage in conflict areas.

Thus far, 127 States are party to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural property in the Event of Armed Conflict and 68 of them are party to the Second Protocol.