Reinforce the immunity of our common heritage under threat

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Al Askari Shrine, Samarra, Iraq
© UNESCO

States urged to implement 1954 Convention and its 1999 Second Protocol to protect cultural property in armed conflict.

The Ninth Meeting of UNESCO’s Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict today urged all countries not yet party to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols, to ratify and fully implement them. The Convention, known as the Hague Convention, has so far been ratified by 126 nations. The Second Protocol has been ratified by 67 of the Convention’s States Parties.

At the end of its two-day meeting, the Committee also encouraged States Parties and the international community to take measures to prevent any new tensions that could result in threats to cultural property, and to explicitly include the protection of cultural property in the mandates of armed forces. Finally, it condemned repeated and deliberate attacks against cultural property around the world and in particular in the Syrian Arab Republic and the Republic of Iraq.

The Committee reviewed and approved operational and procedural arrangements to supervise the implementation of the Convention’s Second Protocol through technical missions in the field in the event of armed conflict, including occupation. It also encouraged the Committee Chairperson, in close collaboration with UNESCO’s Director-General, to exercise prerogatives under the relevant provisions of the Second Protocol to pursue reconciliation efforts between the parties concerned by armed conflict, including situations of occupation, so as to monitor the protection of cultural property in the field.

The Committee considered a proposal to create a distinctive emblem for cultural property under enhanced protection that could be used to better identify such property in times of conflict, and encourage respect for its immunity. This immunity is consistent with the call for the establishment of"protected cultural areas" around cultural sites, made by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova at the International Conference on heritage and cultural diversity at risk in Syria and Iraq, organized by UNESCO on 3 December 2014.

The Committee also requested the UNESCO Secretariat to continue developing synergies with other UNESCO normative instruments and programmes, intensify partnerships, and strengthen awareness-raising and education on the importance of protecting cultural heritage at all levels, including among youth.

At the opening of the meeting, outgoing Committee Chairman Benjamin Goes, made an appeal to strengthen the global mobilization for the Hague Convention and its two Protocols, which include provisions aimed at helping States to reinforce the protection and to prevent risks to cultural property posed by armed conflicts or natural disasters. These include training and awareness programmes, the establishment of inventories, the construction of shelters and the development of emergency plans.

Mr Goes, whose elected successor is Ms Artemis Papathanassiou (Greece), also praised the work of citizens involved professionally and personally and the civil society at the heart of events. The Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict is composed of 12 States Parties to The Hague Convention, who are elected for four years. It works in close co-operation with UNESCO’s Director-General to grant, suspend or cancel enhanced protection of cultural property; supervise the implementation of the Second Protocol; and attribute international assistance from, and the use of, the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.