The Blue Shield is
“committed to the protection of the world’s cultural property, and is concerned with the protection of cultural and natural heritage, tangible and intangible, in the event of armed conflict, natural- or human-made disaster.”
(Article 2.1, Blue Shield Statutes 2016)
The Blue Shield believes strongly that our work will be more effective if adequate preparations for conflicts and disasters are made in peacetime. The key areas that we operate in are:
- Preparation and training for those preventing, mitigating, or responding to tangible and intangible cultural heritage damage during conflict and disasters;
- Protection of tangible and intangible cultural property during armed conflict (according to the principles of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict);
- Offering support and assistance after conflict when armed forces may still be deployed;
- Situations that do not meet the criteria for an official armed conflict, but where heritage destruction may still be occurring;
- Environmental disasters (whether natural or man-made), as many of the organisations involved in reacting to natural and human-made environmental disasters are the same as those involved in armed conflict;
- Prevention of the illicit trafficking that follows the increased looting seen during and after armed conflicts and disasters, as emergency situations often create the conditions that tallow increased looting, and illicit trafficking of objects: the Blue Shield also works in partnership with organisations like ICOM to stop illicit trafficking of cultural property.
Read more about the risks facing cultural property.
The Blue Shield always puts the needs of people before the protection of cultural property: however, we firmly believe that cultural heritage is inseparable from people. There are people across the world who have willingly chosen to risk their lives to protect heritage – called “Heritage heroes” by the UNOHCR Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights (p19). We also acknowledge the risks taken by armed forces around the world, who may do likewise in line with their mission parameters. The UN Mandate for the peacekeeping forces in Mali, for example, specifically tasks them to protect the cultural heritage of the people of Mali, in addition to their other duties. (Read more about the Malian MINUSMA Mandate and cultural heritage on their website).
The Blue Shield’s commitment to protect cultural property is framed in the context of the ethical principles set out in the Blue Shield Strasbourg Charter.
The Blue Shield seeks to share information and knowledge with international partners from both heritage and non-heritage areas, as well as government bodies, in order to coordinate and mobilise cross-sectorial joint actions that will better protect cultural heritage against natural and human-made disasters and the effects of armed conflict.Cultural property protection (CPP) in any situation, complex or not, needs close collaboration between the cultural heritage community, international and national governmental organisations; non-governmental organisations (NGOs); Civil Society Organisations (CSOs); heritage organisations; disaster risk reduction teams; humanitarian aid organisations; other relevant authorities and emergency services; local communities and volunteer groups; universities and other research centres; relevant private institutions; and supra-national and national armed forces, fire services, police, and customs (hereafter ‘all potential partners’).The complex emergency situations in which the Blue Shield might operate requires close collaboration between the cultural heritage sector, relevant international and national government agencies, armed forces, other uniformed services, and other official voluntary NGOs. To be effective this partnership should be established long before any emergency, complex or otherwise, begins.
If cultural property protection relating to armed conflict, peacekeeping missions, or environmental disaster is to be effective, there should be an effective partnership between the Blue Shield and the armed forces. In order for this to happen, everyone involved in cultural property protection, from heritage professionals to national and coalition armed forces, must work together. These parties must educate and train their members for their potential roles in cultural property protection in both armed conflict (where they have particular legal responsibilities) and environmental disaster (when they are called upon frequently to help as first responders following disasters)
Blue Shield is a self-governed, non-profit, and non-governmental organisation operating independently on all matters of its mission. It provides its own expertise and seeks to work with partners in order to share information and coordinate joint actions.
The Blue Shield is a neutral organisation: our mission is the protection of heritage. Blue Shield may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious, or ideological nature. It shall maintain autonomy in order to always act according to its principles and mission. As such, we will try to assist any genuine initiative by any nation state or warring faction to work towards this goal. It is not the place of the Blue Shield to assess the status of the conflict or give a moral determination of its conduct: the same principle will apply to equivalent circumstances during complex or other emergencies. The Blue Shield respects the principles of international humanitarian law under which we operate, and encourages others to do likewise.
Blue Shield gathers and collaborates with experts from professional bodies and commits its missions and action to them. It ensures that its experts provide the necessary experience and knowledge that is required for preparedness for and response to natural and human-made disasters. Therefore, it aims to train experts and develop their skills to better act before, during, and after disasters.
Blue Shield respects the cultural identity of all humankind and seeks to protect all cultural heritage without bias.
Blue Shield and its Members are not seeking profit. Work should be conducted either on a voluntary basis, or on a not-for-profit basis.
If cultural property protection relating to armed conflict, peacekeeping missions, or environmental disaster is to be effective, there should be an close collaboration and effective partnerships between the Blue Shield, the cultural heritage sector, relevant international and national government agencies, armed forces, other uniformed services, and other official voluntary NGOs. These partnerships should be established long before any emergency, complex or otherwise, begins and everyone involved in cultural property protection, must work together. All parties must educate and train their members for their potential roles in cultural property protection in both armed conflict (where they have particular legal responsibilities) and environmental disaster (when they are called upon frequently to help as first responders following disasters).
Read Blue Shield’s historic Charters and Declarations in our Documents Library
Read more about the international laws which frame our work in our Law Library