The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict adopted at the Hague (Netherlands) in 1954 is the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. It regulates the conduct of nations during war and military occupation in order to assure the protection of cultural sites, monuments and repositories, including museums, libraries and archives.
Written in the wake of the widespread cultural devastation perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II, and modelled on instructions given by General Eisenhower to aid in the preservation of Europe’s cultural legacy, the Hague Convention is the oldest international agreement to address exclusively cultural heritage preservation. It is supplemented by two protocols: The First Protocol (adopted in 1954 with the Convention) and the Second Protocol, which was introduced in 1999 and came into force in 2004.
Why is the 1954 Hague Convention so Important?
The States that are party to the Convention benefit from the mutual commitment of more than 115 States with a view to sparing cultural heritage from consequences of possible armed conflicts through the implementation of the following measures:
- Adoption of peacetime safeguarding measures such as the preparation of inventories;
- the planning of emergency measures for protection against fire or structural collapse;
- the preparation for the removal of movable cultural property or the provision for adequate in situ protection of such property;
- and the designation of competent authorities responsible for the safeguarding of cultural property;
- respect for cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other States Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict, and by refraining from any act of hostility directed against such property;
- consideration of the possibility of registering a limited number of refuges, monumental centres and other immovable cultural property of very great importance in the International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection in order to obtain special protection for such property;
- consideration of the possibility of marking of certain important buildings and monuments with a distinctive emblem of the Convention;
- establishment of special units within the military forces to be responsible for the protection of cultural property;
- sanctions for breaches of the Convention;
- and wide promotion of the Convention within the general public and target groups such as cultural heritage professionals, the military or law-enforcement agencies.
To see a list of countries who have signed and / or ratified the Hague Convention click here.