1954 Convention Second Protocol Committee Emphasizes Protecting Heritage for Peace

The Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, also known as the 1999 Second Protocol Intergovernmental Committee, held its 15th meeting from 11 to 12 December last, to discuss, among other things, ways to monitor and reinforce the protection of cultural property.

Opening the meeting, Mr Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, highlighted the work undertaken by the Organization since the beginning of the pandemic. “In these difficult times, through our field network and using online tools, we have continued to provide technical assistance aimed at improving domestic legislation and supporting robust policies for the preservation of cultural heritage”.

The Committee adopted a Declaration to ensure cultural property protection in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The Declaration welcomed UNESCO’s initiative, taken in conformity with Article 23 of the 1954 Hague Convention, to carry out as soon as possible an independent technical mission, with the agreement of all concerned Parties, to take stock of the situation regarding cultural properties in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The Committee requested each of the parties to render the mission possible.

The members of the Committee discussed emergency and safeguarding measures for countries involved in armed conflicts. To this effect, they underscored the need to reinforce the monitoring and supervision of the implementation of the 1999 Second Protocol with a view to ensure a higher level of protection for cultural property. Participants of the meeting further emphasized the importance of the Committee’s role in better responding to the challenges of growing conflicts around the world. The Committee established an ad hoc subcommittee to elaborate a mechanism aiming to improve the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict notably in extreme emergency situations.

The importance of reinforcing both operational and thematic synergies between the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols (1954 and 1999) and other UNESCO Culture Conventions was also stressed. The Committee launched a new thematic programme “Heritage for Peace” strengthening the role of heritage in conflict prevention, in conflict situations, for conflict resolution, and as a tool for post-conflict recovery. The Committee invited all Parties to support this programme, which aims to ensure the highest degree of protection of cultural heritage worldwide, and to enable cultural heritage to become a genuine tool for the protection of peace and a lever for the defense of peace in the minds of men and women.

The Committee also granted international assistance through the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict to implement preparatory measures for the protection of cultural heritage in Latin American countries. In this regard, Barbados received financial support for digitalization and conservation of its collection of slavery records and to train the staff of the Department of Archives. Mexico was granted financial support to develop a Risk Management Plan for the National Museum of Anthropology of Mexico.

The Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was adopted in 1999, and among other things, created a new category of enhanced protection for cultural property that is particularly important for humankind and enjoys proper legal protection at the national level. Currently the Second Protocol has 84 States Parties.

Composed of twelve members, the Committee at this session unanimously elected Mrs. Najat Rhandi (Morocco) as its Chairperson and Mr. Sunday Imoh Egbo (Nigeria) as its Rapporteur. Estonia, Greece, El Salvador and Japan were also elected as Vice-Chairpersons.

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