Message of the Chairperson of the Committee
Over the last years, we have seen steady achievements of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict in monitoring the implementation of the Second Protocol, managing the system of enhanced protection and providing financial assistance from the Fund for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. 2014 was another year of progress in that journey as UNESCO has successfully undertaken a number of actions for the protection of the cultural property of the Syrian Arab Republic and the cultural property of Iraq. At the same time, the situation remains critically challenging and, from a global perspective, there still is an obvious need to strengthen the protection of cultural properties worldwide, both in peacetime and wartime.
It is significantly important to understand that all of us have a responsibility to protect cultural heritage, as it reflects the life of the community, its history and identity. Its preservation is necessary to rebuild broken communities, re-establish their identities, and link their past with their present and future. Unfortunately, many States still have not yet become party to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and/or its two Protocols (1954 and 1999).
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
As of the beginning of February 2015, there are 126 States party to 1954 the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. 103 among them are party to its 1954 First Protocol, while only 67 of them are party to the 1999 Second Protocol.
In order to effectively strengthen the protection of cultural property, it is required that:
- All UNESCO Member States become party to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, its 1954 First Protocol and, in particular, its 1999 Second Protocol ;
- States party to the 1999 Second Protocol implement it properly at the national level by, among other things, introducing peacetime preparatory measures, adopting specific national legislation relating to serious and other violations of the Second Protocol and disseminating its provisions within the military and law-enforcement authorities as well as other target groups; and
- States party to the 1999 Second Protocol submit proposals for the granting of enhanced protection to their World Heritage Sites. Thereby, utmost protection can be provided, not only in the event of armed conflict, but also in peace time.
FULFILLING THE MISSION
I highly encourage the relevant authorities of all UNESCO Member States to respond accordingly to the requirements mentioned above. In particular, States from all the geographical regions, which have not yet done so, should consider on a priority basis to become party to the 1999 Second Protocol to the Hague Convention and, thus, contribute to an improved protection of cultural property, both in peace and wartime.
Beyond these major concerns, I would like to draw your attention to several other issues that need to be done by the Committee and its Bureau. It is essential:
- To ensure the follow-up to the decisions and recommendations of the Committee;
- In the light of the Statement, which was for the first time adopted by our Committee at its 9th Meeting, to call States and the international community to implement, on a priority basis, the necessary means to prevent new tensions resulting in threats to cultural property and to explicitly include the issue of protection of cultural property in the mandates of the armed forces;
- To analyze in-depth future applications for the granting of enhanced protection and to encourage all States party to the Second Protocol to submit requests for the granting of enhanced protection with a view to obtaining more requests, in particular from conflict areas, and a more varied List of Cultural Property under Enhanced Protection;
- To encourage all States party to the Second Protocol to submit a tentative list of cultural property for which they intend to request the granting of enhanced protection;
- To increase the level of contributions to the Fund and to ensure the diversification of its donors;
- To encourage States party to the Second Protocol to submit requests for international or other category of assistance from the Fund; and
- To strengthen the Secretariat, by providing funds and seconding qualified personnel to assist it.
Reflecting therefore on these challenges, let me express my thanks and appreciation to the members of the Bureau, the Committee, the observers, as well as the Secretariat for their strong commitment and fruitful cooperation.
Looking ahead, I am confident that we have a forward-looking approach, as well as the commitment and constructive spirit to continue to fulfil the Committee’s mission, thus protecting one of the most precious assets of humanity: its cultural property.
Artemis A. Papathanassiou