The Blue Shield is a network of committees of dedicated individuals across the world that 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 network, often referred to as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, was formed in response to the changes in international law and today works globally to protect cultural heritage in emergency situations. We are a non-governmental, non-profit, international organisation committed to the protection of heritage across the world. This includes museums, monuments, archaeological sites, archives, libraries and audio-visual material, and significant natural areas, as well as intangible heritage. We have national committees operating across the world, with more under construction. The national committees are coordinated by an international committee – the Blue Shield International Board.
The work of the Blue Shield is underpinned by international law – in particular, the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999, which are considered to be part of international humanitarian law (IHL). IHL, also known as the Law of War or Law of Armed Conflict, is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict on people and property. This primary context is also informed by a number of other international legal instruments, by the international cultural protection agenda as set by the UN and UNESCO, and by international initiatives regarding environmental disaster such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Although the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols refer to cultural property, recognising the developments in our understanding of culture across the world, and the different ways it manifests, the Blue Shield deals with the broader concept of cultural heritage.
The 1954 Hague Convention designates an emblem for cultural property that should be protected, and for identification of those working to protect it – the blue shield.
The Blue Shield organisation has taken up the emblem of the Convention as a symbol of their protective work, set in a blue circular background. Today, as the devastation wrought by conflicts and disasters across the world is brought vividly home to us in the news and on social media, that emblem can be found in most continents, as people across the world work to protect heritage in disasters.