Dear Mr Whittingdale,
Ref: Ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention and the UK Cultural Property Fund (download here)
As representatives of some of the UK’s leading cultural heritage organisations we, the undersigned, were delighted when last June the Government publicly announced its decision to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its associated protocols. This legislation will give enormous support to the Armed Forces’ ambitions to support local communities in the areas in which it is militarily engaged.
We are also hugely supportive of the Government’s intention to create a Cultural Property Fund, as announced in the same press release. In particular we endorse the proposal that has already been put to you by Peter Stone, UNESCO Professor of Culture Property Protection and Peace at Newcastle University, Chair of the UK Committee of the Blue Shield and cultural property advisor to the UK Government during the Iraq War of 2003. He recommends that the Fund be concentrated on five areas of activity, namely:
• A co-ordination centre, with a staff of three or four, to act as a practical hub for networking, liaison, and communication for the complex web of academic, NGO professional, governmental, and military expertise in the area, to ensure minimal reduplication of effort. This is, in our opinion, the top priority for funding now.
• Training for individuals and organisations in the practicalities of Cultural Property Protection, facilitated by the co-ordination centre.
• Developing and implementing procedures for proactive protection of Cultural Property for countries such as Lebanon, which are at under real risk, where proactive protection could be implemented now and from which international guidelines could be developed.
• Emergency response protocols to deliver rapid, specialised assessment and initial conservation first aid to countries suffering from conflict or environmental disaster.
• Long-term support for Cultural Property in post-conflict and post-disaster zones, such as post- earthquake Nepal.
We thank you again for all your efforts to make the UK a leader in international Cultural Property Protection and look forward to concrete news soon of the parliamentary schedule for ratification, and of the budget and remit of the Cultural Property Fund. We would be happy to be of assistance in any way we can.
Professor Eleanor Robson
Chair of Council
British Institute for the Study of Iraq
Dr Mike Heyworth, MBE
Council for British Archaeology
Mr Peter Hinton
Chartered Institute for Archaeologists
Ms Sharon Heal
Ms Kate Pugh, OBE
The Heritage Alliance
The Art Loss Register
Dr Neil Brodie
Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research
University of Glasgow
Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe
Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology
University of Oxford
Mr Philip Deans
Doctoral Research Student
School of Arts and Cultures
Dr Paul Fox
University of York
Dr Nigel Pollard
Associate Professor of Ancient History
Mr Robert Bevan
Architecture Critic of The Evening Standard
Dr Bijan Rouhani
ICOMOS Working Group on Syria and Iraq
Mr Peter A. Clayton
Member of the Treasure Valuation Committee
The British Museum
Dr Robert Bewley
Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa Project
University of Oxford
Professor Graham Philip
Department of Archaeology