Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

14 May 1954 – The Hague, Netherlands

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The 1954 Hague Concention and its Two Protocols (1954 and 1999) calls for a system of protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict

Signed in the wake of the massive destruction of cultural and historical objects and monuments experienced across the globe during the Second World War, the Convention protects immovable and movable cultural heritage, including monuments of architecture, art or history, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest, as well as scientific collections of all kinds regardless of their origin or ownership.

This #Convention was

?    Adopted by UNESCO

?    Signed by the UK

?    Passed as UK law

?    Ratified

The UK chose not to ratify the Convention or accede to the First Protocol in 1954 as it considered that it did not provide an effective protection of cultural property. The adoption of the Second Protocol in 1999, addressed these concerns and allowed the UK to announce its intention to ratify in 2004, and did so in September 2017.


“The world has watched with dismay and horror in recent years at the wanton destruction of priceless historic artefacts and sites in war. By ratifying the Hague Convention and both its Protocols, the UK underlines our absolute commitment to protecting cultural heritage, both here and across the globe.”

John Glen MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, 2017 – 2018


?   The #Convention summarised

By becoming a State party to the Convention, the UK accesses the benefit of a mutual commitment between 133 countries to collectively prevent the destruction of cultural heritage during armed conflict.

The UK ratified all 3 legal instruments in September 2017, and as such benefits from their objectives in protecting the cultural property of the UK during war and armed conflict.

Wars, armed confrontations and conflict have always posed a significant threat to the safety, integrity and preservation of cultural heritage contained within the territories engaged in the conflict. These threats have manifested in destruction, whether incidental or intentional and the looting of cultural artefacts as ‘spoils of war’.

In combination, the 1954 Hague Convention and its Two Protocols encourage States to adopt measures during peacetime for the safeguarding of cultural property. The Convention also requires that the States Parties implement criminal sanctions for those who damage cultural property during times of armed conflict as well and creates a further form of protection for cultural property. The legal instruments also prohibit the export of cultural property from occupied territories and the use of cultural property as a means of reparation.

The Convention and its Two Protocols also define both movable and immovable cultural property for the purposes of protection such as monuments, religious sites, museums, libraries and archives, although the list is not exhaustive.

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Matthew Rabagliati
Head of Policy Communications and Research
UK National Commission for UNESCO

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“The protection of people is inextricably linked to the protection of their heritage; they are indivisible parts of the same whole.”

Professor Peter Stone, UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at Newcastle University


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The Hague Convention sets out a minimum level of respect which all States Parties must observe, both in relation to their own national heritage as well as the heritage of other States Parties. The UK meets these objectives through government policy and other organisations.


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The UK National Commission for UNESCO utilises our expert network to inform and advise government on issues relating to UNESCO’s mandate for the building of peace and the responsibilities of the UK in areas of international law governed by UNESCO.


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