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NATO briefing

Academics warn NATO protecting heritage is a necessity not a luxury

Published on: 13 July 2018

Newcastle University researchers have been briefing NATO experts on cultural property protection.

Protecting cultural property

The dangers of not protecting heritage during times of armed conflict are highlighted in a new briefing paper for the NATO summit, written by Newcastle University experts.

They say that destroying a community’s culture can result in displaced people not returning to their homes, increase violence, provoke further conflicts, and can also be a precursor to and an essential component of genocide. They say the success of military missions can be affected by how heritage is treated.

The 22 page article, “The Protection of Cultural Property in Event of Armed Conflict: Unnecessary Distraction or Mission-Relevant Priority?” is written by Professor Peter Stone, Dr Emma Cunliffe and Dr Paul Fox, from the University’s Department of Media, Culture and Heritage. They are all members of the Blue Shield, the heritage equivalent of the Red Cross.

Professor Peter Stone
Professor Peter Stone

Inernational laws

Professor Stone, who became the first ever UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace in 2015, says: “Working with the armed forces to protect cultural property is paramount. Cultural property is more than just bricks: it’s about people, and what they value. Damage to cultural property can increase unrest, and – at worst – can result in spikes in violence, and more casualties.

“Today, the world is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis and, as we point out in our paper, the destruction of a community’s heritage can also influence whether they return home when a conflict has ended.”

The paper highlights the importance of implementing the international laws protecting heritage, and recommends close teamwork between the armed forces, governments, heritage professionals, and NGOs like the Blue Shield, to prepare for the event of armed conflict and emergency disasters.

The document was written for high level NATO figures, their advisors, and for the general public and journalists who are interested in the issues it raises. The two-day NATO summit was held in Brussels and attended by 29 world leaders including Theresa May, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, and Donald Trump.



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