...any damage to cultural property, irrespective of the people it belongs to, is a damage to the cultural heritage of all humanity, because every people contributes to the world's culture...
Through history, armed conflicts always wrought havoc on the lives of people. In addition to its humanitarian toll, conflicts also led to the large-scale destruction of cultural heritage, weakening the foundations of communities, lasting peace and prospects of reconciliation.
Considering that the preservation of cultural heritage is of great importance for all peoples of the world and thus needs universal protection, the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was adopted in 1954 under the auspices of UNESCO. Now widely referred as the 1954 Hague Convention, is the first and the most comprehensive multilateral treaty dedicated exclusively to the protection of cultural heritage in times of peace as well as during an armed conflict.
The 1954 Hague Convention aims to protect cultural property, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest, as well as scientific collections of any kind regardless of their origin or ownership.
The commitments made by the States Parties to the Convention serve to preserve cultural heritage through the implementation of the following measures:
- Adopting preventive measures such as preparing inventories, planning emergency measures to protect property against the risk of fire or the collapse of buildings, and preparing the removal of cultural property to places of safety.
- Developing initiatives which guarantee respect for cultural property situated on their own territory or on the territory of other States Parties. This involves refraining from using such property in any manner that might expose it to destruction or deterioration in the event of armed conflict, and by refraining from all acts of hostility directed against it.
- Registering cultural property of very high importance on the International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection in order to obtain special protection for such property;
- Marking certain important buildings and monuments with a distinctive emblem of the Convention;
- Providing a place for eventual refuge to shelter movable cultural property;
- Establishing special units within the military forces responsible for the protection of cultural property;
- Setting sanctions for breaches of the Convention; and,
- Promoting the Convention among the general public and through target groups such as cultural heritage professionals, and military or law-enforcement agencies.