Message of the Chairperson of the Committee

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (in brief, the Committee) is a young institution (it held its first meeting in October 2006), but it has rapidly achieved visible and tangible results. However, the Committee still faces a number of challenges. I hope that the few lines that follow will help better understand what these challenges are and which objectives the Committee will have to address.

The main challenge of the Committee

In the light of the abuses committed in the context of armed conflicts on cultural property of the greatest importance for humanity, including some inscribed on the World Heritage List at the time of, or following, their destruction (for example, the destruction of the mausoleums of Timbuktu in Mali, the shelling of Dubrovnik or the looting of the Iraqi National Museum), there is an obvious need to strengthen the effective protection of these cultural properties and in particular those that are of the greatest importance for humanity.

Nevertheless, the Convention, and especially its Second Protocol, which pursue this aim, are still largely unknown or poorly understood by States.

How can we meet this challenge?

To strengthen this protection, the following objectives should be fulfilled:

  1. The States which are not Parties to the 1999 Second Protocol, or even to the Hague Convention of 1954, should become so.
  2. The States which are Parties to the 1999 Second Protocol  to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict should submit at least the cultural sites that are already inscribed on the World Heritage List for the granting of enhanced protection, in order to provide the utmost protection not only in the event of armed conflict, but also in times of peace as the Second Protocol provides comprehensive conservation and safeguarding measures.

The Committee has already adopted several resolutions aimed towards fulfilling these objectives. Furthermore, at its last meeting in December 2012, the Committee launched a reflection, as proposed by Belgium, which could contribute concretely to increasing more rapidly the number of cultural properties under enhanced protection, while developing synergies with the World Heritage Committee. I have great hopes that this dialogue will prove fruitful.

Other challenges to be met

Beyond the central issues already mentioned (i.e. an increase in the number of ratifications to the Second Protocol and  applications for the granting of enhanced protection), I will give my utmost attention to a series of other issues that need to be considered by the Bureau and dealt with by the Committee:

  1. follow-up of the decisions and recommendations of the Committee;
  2. anticipation of future applications for the granting of enhanced protection by an in-depth analysis of the first criterion for granting enhanced protection, in particular with regard to immovable cultural property that is not part of the World Heritage List as well as movable cultural property;
  3. a review of whether or not  a specific distinctive emblem should be created for property under enhanced protection, since such a sign has not been provided for by the Second Protocol, and, where appropriate, the definition of its terms of use;
  4. encouraging the Parties to submit a tentative list of cultural property for which they intend to request the granting of enhanced protection.
  5. increasing the level of contributions to the Fund and the diversification of its donors (I would like to take this opportunity to thank the States that have contributed to date, namely Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands and Slovakia) as well as the strengthening of the Secretariat.
  6. improvements to the Rules of Procedure of the Committee (including  the terms of introduction of an item into the provisional agenda of the Committee by one of its members and the clarification of the observer status at the meetings of the Committee) and the procedure for requests of emergency assistance from the Fund..

Thanks to the commitment and constructive spirit of the members of the Bureau, the Committee and other Parties that are not members of the Committee, to whom I should like to pay tribute, I am convinced that we will be able to meet these challenges together. Major issues are at stake for which we must all mobilize; the price at stake is the protection of cultural heritage of the greatest importance for humanity.

Warm regards,

Benjamin GOES

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