14.05.2020 - Culture Sector

Protecting cultural heritage in armed conflict: the 66th anniversary of the UNESCO 1954 Hague Convention

Logo of the 1954 Convnetion © UNESCO

The 14th of May 2020 marks the 66th anniversary of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

The Convention adopted by The Hague Conference in 1954 was the response of the international community to the massive destruction of cultural heritage during the Second World War.

As the first international treaty with a universal vocation focusing exclusively on the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict, the 1954 Hague Convention recognizes the value of cultural property and calls for it to be respected and protected. The Convention echoes the conviction of the international community that damage to cultural property belonging to any people is equivalent to damage to the cultural heritage of all humanity, as each person makes its contribution to the culture of the world.



Since its inception, the Convention has been ratified by 132 countries. “As the global ongoing health crisis challenges the protection of cultural heritage in conflict-stricken countries, commitment to the international rules to protect heritage is more important than ever. Therefore, I invite all countries which have not yet done so, to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention with a view to amplify the commitment of international community to save heritage in the event of armed conflict” appeals H.E. Ambassador Atanas Ignatov Mladenov, Chairperson of the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the 1954 Hague Convention, and Alternate Permanent Delegate of Bulgaria to UNESCO.


While notable progress has been achieved in its implementation, more efforts are needed, such as the better incorporation of the Convention’s provisions into the national law, as well as the provision of regular trainings for military and law enforcement forces in respecting and protecting cultural property. Many challenges also stem from the changing nature of armed conflicts and the willingness and ability of all warring parties to save culture.

This anniversary presents an important opportunity to assess progress made over the past 66 years and to re-examine the challenge of saving the heritage of humanity from the catastrophic consequences of war. Even in this exceptional time of the COVID-19 crisis, UNESCO and the States Parties aim to raise awareness, and will use this momentum to continue to put the protection of cultural property in conflict high on national, regional and international agendas, because of its relevance for peaceful development and co-existence.

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