On 14th June 2022, the Blue Shield hosted its 2022 online General Assembly from our registered address in the National Archives in the Netherlands. We were delighted to welcome representatives from all our Blue Shield National Committees, Committees under Construction and the Founding Four organisations. Attendees from numerous countries around the world were able to attend the online meeting, hosted via Zoom.
He thanked the Netherlands National Committee for assisting with hosting, and the Czechia National Committee for their work in looking to host in-person, which unfortunately was not possible.
Approval of Annual Documentation
The first order of business was to approve the Blue Shield Annual Documentation. Members were asked to approve the following documents:
- The Minutes of the 2021 General Assembly
- The BSI Annual Report (Nov 2021 – May 2022)
- The BSI Action Plan (June 2022 – General Assembly 2023)
- The 2021 BSI Financial Report of the Treasurer and Audit Committee Report
The President highlighted some key points from the Annual Report, including the accreditation of new committees in Slovakia and Niger, as well as more committees under construction. No questions were received on the Annual Report before the General Assembly. The President then presented the draft of the 2022-23 Action Plan, before the Treasurer presented the Report for the 2021 Financial Year and the report of the Audit Committee. All reports were approved by the General Assembly.
Election of the Auditing Committee
Two candidates were re-elected to the Auditing Committee for the financial year 2022; Dr Ömer Dabanli of Blue Shield Türkiye, and Gerrit de Bruin of Blue Shield Netherlands. There were no questions from the Assembly for either candidate.
Blue Shield Standards
Blue Shield seeks to uphold ‘triple standards’ of independence, impartiality, and neutrality – standards that underline and emphasise our non-aligned status, which together with our other ethical principles are at the core of our approach to heritage protection during armed conflict, natural disasters, and other emergencies. Maintaining these standards is crucial to our developing international credibility as a heritage protection movement, and the aspiration to really become the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. In particular, it enables Blue Shield International to work with, and try to influence, all parties to a conflict for the protection of cultural property regardless of the rights or wrongs of particular belligerents. Although much of this work is confidential, Blue Shield International is already working at a high level with key partners in this area, as are some national committees. While the Board would obviously prefer all national committees to stick by the ‘triple standards’ in reality this may be too much to expect. The Board would however ask any national committee considering breaking the link to the triple standards to seriously consider the potential implications for the whole Movement by such action. Nevertheless, as long as it is very clear that any statements that do not live up to this triple stance are made on behalf of a national committee and it is explicitly stated that they do not reflect the views of BSI or the whole Blue Shield Movement, the final decision rests with the Board of the national committee.
There were no questions or dissenting opinions to this approach.
National Committee Report
Emma Cunliffe reported on highlights of national committee activity based on submitted annual reports. These include national committees engaging and building new connections with their military and military academies, international organisations, and local NGO partners, institutions, and governments. National committees have also been involved in, or directly organised, a large number of webinars, conferences, workshops, academies and training courses on heritage protection, disaster prevention, world heritage, and awareness on a global scale.
However, the challenges for national committees were also acknowledged – most members are volunteers, there is often a lack of capacity and funding, COVID restrictions continue to impact travel, and there are political issues where government collaboration is not possible or is extremely difficult.
Update on the Illegal Trafficking Working Group
Emma Cunliffe presented a report written by the working group on behalf of its coordinator, Patty Gerstenblith. With members from several national committees, the group’s primary activities are focused on supporting law enforcement, presentations and awareness raising, and acting in an advisory role.
The President closed by thanking the National Committees and emphasised that one of his main aims over the next 18 months was to find some substantive funding for the Blue Shield. Thanks were also received in the chat from a number of committee members.