UNESCO and UNIFIL: Exploring the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict


24 November 2015

UNESCO Beirut Office and UNIFIL organized, under the patronage of H.E the Minister of Culture in Lebanon, Raymond Arayji, an "awareness raising seminar on the Implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols".

Dedicated to UNIFIL officers (military and civilians), this seminar comes to follow up on the recommendations declared during a first similar event held in Beirut in June 2013 for the Lebanese Army.

Forty senior officers from the UNIFIL's military sections (Infantry, the Armor/Tanks, the Artillery as well as the Air force); in addition to high level officers working in legal and political departments participated in this event.

The seminar was composed of five thematic sessions, providing participants with a wide and detailed overview of the Convention's legal assets, penalties, and best implementation practices, focusing on military measures, with practical examples from the region. These sessions were facilitated by international and national experts, and were distributed as follows:

  1. Introduction into the Hague Convention and its two Protocols;
  2. Specific examples of UNESCO’s activities regarding the region;
  3. Military aspects of the implementation of the Hague Convention and its two Protocols;
  4. Measures of respect relating to The Hague Convention and its two Protocols;
  5. Penal aspects of the Hague Convention and its two Protocols.

As witnessed in countries living an armed conflict in the region, cultural heritage is particularly at risk, owing to its inherent vulnerability and tremendous symbolic value. Intentional targeting and destruction of heritage sites, illicit trafficking of artefacts, and illegal excavation are causing major losses that can deprive a community of its memory, the physical testimony to its past, but also of a precious resource for social and economic wellbeing. In order to halt those crimes committed against cultural heritage, UNESCO acts as a coordinator and catalyst to bolster cooperation and strengthen networking among national and international actors.

In this framework, UNESCO renowned cultural conventions provide a unique global platform for international cooperation and establish a holistic cultural governance system based on human rights and shared values. These international treaties endeavour to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage including ancient archaeological sites, intangible and underwater heritage, museum collections, oral traditions and other forms of heritage, and to support creativity, innovation and the emergence of dynamic cultural sectors.