Protection of cultural property
Professor Stone, UNESCO chair for Cultural Property Protection and Peace, at Newcastle University, has been campaigning for the ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, since 2003.
The convention and its two protocols are designed to protect items such as monuments, archaeological sites, important artefacts and works of arts from destruction and looting during armed conflict.
“This is absolutely wonderful news and to be honest it hasn’t completely sunk in yet,” said Professor Stone. “We’ve been working towards this since 2003 and for the UK to have finally ratified the Convention and both its Protocols is long overdue. I thank the UK National Commission for UNESCO for its early support for this to happen and all of those in both Houses of Parliament who have pushed for this over the last few years and who have guided the necessary internal legislation through so efficiently.
“It’s also extremely positive that the UK is in the process of creating a specialised Joint Service cultural property protection unit within its armed forces. We are finally taking the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict seriously.
“I should particularly like to thank my University which has supported my work in this area providing time and funding to help me make the case for ratification and for recently funding 1.5 posts to support my UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection & Peace.
“It’s been a wonderful day but the hard work starts now to deliver on our responsibilities under the Convention and I really hope that the Government turns legislation and ratification into a positive commitment to support those trying to make this happen.”
The 1954 Hague Convention was set up following the massive destruction during the Second World War. The UK chose not to ratify the Convention or accede to the First Protocol in 1954 as it considered, along with a number of other countries, that it did not provide an effective regime for the protection of cultural property. The adoption of the Second Protocol in 1999, which the UK was involved in negotiating, addressed these concerns and allowed the UK to announce its intention to ratify in 2004.
The announcement came as the international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) the Blue Shield was meeting in Vienna for its triennial General Assembly. The Blue Shield was created in 1996 as a specialist international body to advise UNESCO on cultural property protection. Professor Stone is Secretary of the international Blue Shield and Chair of its UK national committee.
Karl Habsburg, President of the Blue Shield said: “This is fantastic news. I am so pleased that the UK has finally joined the international community in recognising the importance of protecting cultural property during armed conflict. I warmly congratulate Professor Peter Stone and the rest of the UK national committee of the Blue Shield for their tireless work towards achieving this really important breakthrough."
Speaking at the Blue Shield General Assembly, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova congratulated Professor Stone for his “tireless commitment at the forefront of this work.”
She said: “Now all five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council are party to the 1954 Convention.
“This is true testament to a new global recognition of the role of cultural heritage in modern conflict. It is a clear recognition that heritage protection is more than a cultural issue – it is a security imperative.
“Together, we have built a coalition for the protection of heritage, and I once again wish to thank the Blue Shield for its support to UNESCO’s #unite4heritage global movement.
Subject to confirmation by UNESCO, the Convention and Protocols will come into force in the UK on December 12, 2017.
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