The Blue Shield is an international, voluntary organisation that was created in 1996 to try to protect cultural heritage during conflict. Today its remit has expanded to include the protection of cultural heritage during and after natural disasters. Blue Shield is the only organisation created and mandated under international law to preserve cultural heritage in such a context.
After much campaigning by UK Blue Shield, on Thursday 23 February 2017, the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act passed through parliament and received royal assent. The 1954 Hague Convention and both Protocols were ratified and the Act passed into force in December 2017.(Read more here). The UK Government has released guidance on the implementation of the Act, and UK Blue Shield is now working with them to look at the most effective ways to do this, and has released two position papers on the topic.
For an excellent summary of why the UK should ratify the Convention, watch this video by Professor Peter Stone, Chair of UK Blue shield, or see this blog post by UK Blue Shield member and Chair of the British institute for the Study of Iraq, Eleanor Robson. Some people have expressed concerns that ratification will allow the UK a legal excuse to invade another country under the pretext of protecting culture. The majority of the Convention is actually part of International Humanitarian Law: ratification has formalised the Convention into the UKs legal system, providing a framework that military forces should follow by placing a defined limit on the destructive nature of conflict, and outlining actions the UK should take during peacetime to protect cultural property. Nor does the 1954 Hague Convention place cultural property above people, as it exists within a wider framework of laws designed to protect civilians and their property in a conflict situation. Instead, it should be viewed as an additional standard the military should adhere to whilst carrying out other duties.
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