Europa Nostra joins UNESCO International Conference “Cultural Heritage and Peace: Building on 70 years of The Hague Convention”

2024 marks the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the first international legal framework entirely dedicated to the protection of movable and immovable heritage, which was signed in The Hague on 14 May 1954. On this occasion, UNESCO organised the International Conference “Cultural Heritage and Peace: Building on 70 years of The Hague Convention” in The Hague on 13-15 May 2024, hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Europa Nostra participated in this milestone conference, during which UNESCO also launched new initiatives to protect cultural property.


Specialists involved in the protection of cultural property gathered to collectively reflect on the achievements, challenges and lessons learned in the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention. Protecting culture, whether during peacetime or an armed conflict, means safeguarding the memories of peoples and societies, and passing down the diverse fabric of humanity to the generations to come. Instruments such as the 1954 Hague Convention contribute to building and cementing a foundation of peace.

Internationale UNESCO-conferentie over 70 jaar Haags Verdrag

The conference opened at the Peace Palace in The Hague, an iconic building established in 1913, which houses the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The welcoming ceremony, moderated by Barbera Wolfensberger, Director General for Culture and Media of the Ministry of Culture of The Netherlands, had the participation of Jan van Zanen, Mayor of The Hague, Hanke Bruins Slot, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands, and Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.

The conference programme featured three plenary sessions: session 1 – “Peacebuilding through cultural heritage and the importance of cultural diplomacy” (watch the video recording); session 2 – “Protecting cultural property: a humanitarian imperative” (watch the video recording); and session 3 – “Shaping a peaceful future: Collaborations in preservation of cultural heritage in emergencies” (watch the video recording).

The main outcomes of the sessions were recommendations for conflict parties and state parties to adhere to the human rights obligations and to integrate culture in humanitarian, stabilisation, peace building, and mediation efforts through cooperation between UNESCO, UN agencies, regional organisations, governments and civil society to ensure sustainable development, peace and security.

Special attention was given to the further involvement of women and youth on peace and security and the related awareness raising. Additionally, the panels highlighted the relevance of digital tools and AI to enhance international coordination for cultural heritage protection during times of crises. Participants also suggested strengthening the capacities related to cultural heritage safeguarding of military personnel and include this knowledge along with security strategies, humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping policies.

The most significant recommendation was strengthening the policy and legislative framework around the protection of cultural heritage in times of crisis.

Internationale UNESCO-conferentie over 70 jaar Haags Verdrag

To make these recommendations a reality, UNESCO announced three new initiatives to protect cultural property  in line with current needs and technical resources:

1. The creation of an international training programme for judges and prosecutors in the areas of data collection, analysis and investigating the destruction of heritage;
2. The creation of a “civil-military alliance for the protection of cultural property”, whose mission will be to accelerate the creation of units specialised in heritage protection; and
3. The training of site managers and military personnel in cutting-edge technologies that can contribute to heritage protection.

Europa Nostra advocates for strengthening mechanisms that protect cultural heritage through collaboration with international institutions and local governments. Civil society organisations have direct networks within crisis zones, proving invaluable input for efficient protection management. Our bottom-up approach will continue to guide us in preserving cultural heritage in Europe from communities to communities.

For more information, photos and video recordings of the conference, please visit www.unesco.org/en/70-years-culture-peace/conference

 

The Hague Convention

On 14 May 1954, following the devastation of World War II, the international community gathered under the auspices of UNESCO to adopt the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, known as The Hague Convention. This marked the first time that a clear and shared global legal framework was established to protect cultural property from the impact of armed conflict and to hold those accountable for intentional destruction of such property would be brought to justice.

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