BSI: 2021 – A Year in Review

Blue Shield President, Professor Peter Stone of Newcastle University, looks back on 2021…

Highlights and moments to remember:

As Peter mentions in his introduction, 2021 was a signal year for the Blue Shield in so many ways.

This year BSI was delighted to welcome Dr Michael Delacruz to the Secretariat. Meet him here

This year we also sadly lost a key figure in Blue Shield’s history, Nancy Wilkie. Nancy was one of the founders of the USA’s national committee of the Blue Shield and served as Secretary from 2006-2013 and as President from 2013-2020. Nancy was an elected member of the Interim Board of Blue Shield International 2014-2017 and of the Board 2017-2020. Read her obituary here

BS’s 25th Anniversary events

25 years ago, four international heritage organisations recognised the need for greater cooperation to protect cultural heritage at risk from conflict and disaster: the International Council on Archives (ICA), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). Together they founded the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS), with a vision for national committees across the world.

BSI started our anniversary celebrations with a panel discussion with the four people who founded Blue Shield on 6 June 1996, looking back at what inspired them, and their vision for the organisation, to be chaired by the first President of the Blue Shield Association, Karl Habsburg.

Watch the panel here…

As part of the celebrations we interviewed our four founders – you can hear more from them in these short videos. (Long versions are available in the archives).

We were also excited to create a gallery of blue shields from around the world to raise awareness of the importance of the blue shield emblem in protecting the world’s most important cultural property in conflict. People around the world shared images of blue shields, highlighting the variety of protected cultural property to be protected. Take a look at the gallery to learn more about this vital emblem.

Blue Shield plaque on Pitigliano (Grosseto, Toscana) late medieval town’s walls and gate. Proposed by Arturo Marcheggiano, the founder of the SIPBC-Italian Society for the Protection of Cultural Property (1996), this blue shield plaque has been the very first and for many years the only one in Italy. © Max Carcione, June 2018

National Committees

The year was key not only for Blue Shield International (BSI), but for the National Committees (NCs), too, who are after all the backbone of the organisation. Without their presence and work on the ground the Blue Shield’s reach would be more limited and far less rich, as the presentations NCs gave during the monthly informal online gatherings show.

Mention must be made, too, of the new National Committees who joined the Blue Shield family in 2021:

Although published in 2022, work which began on strengthening relations with the African BS NCs and Blue Shield Germany in the later part of the year resulted in a fascinating and comprehensive publication Protecting Heritage in Crisis: Blue Shield in Africa.

Cover of "Protecting Heritage in Crisis: Blue Shield in Africa" showing the a World Heritage mosque in Tumbuktu

In terms of emergency response, the huge and impressive efforts of the European National Committees to respond to the devastating floods and fires across Europe during the summer can be found here in their reports.

Blue Shield Germany

Blue Shield Belgium

Blue Shield Netherlands

Blue Shield Turkey


As Peter mentions in his introduction, training was another area where huge strides were made during the year, culminating in the first block of the planned three-part Blue Shield training course for National Committees and highlighting, amongst other crucial issues, that:

Cultural property provides the tangible (objects, building sites, monuments) and intangible (stories, songs, dances) links to the past, that help to provide individuals and communities with a sense of place, identity, and belonging, contributing to individual and communal wellbeing and dignity.

Whilst also emphasising:

The protection of people is enshrined as a military and humanitarian responsibility in wider international humanitarian and international human rights law. And it is indivisibly intertwined with the protection of people’s cultural property. We’re not just protecting old things that are of interest to heritage people. We’re protecting the development and the re-establishment of healthy, safe, secure, sustainable communities.

In addition to our internal training, BSI both ran and participated in one-off and regular training activities with different military, NGO, humanitarian, and heritage sector organisations and units, as shown in the following examples

Training LAF and UNIFIL

In July, President Peter Stone returned to Beirut for two training courses, organised and facilitated by heritage NGO Biladi, for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)’s Independent Works Regiment, followed by a training for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) personnel.
Read more

Cultural Property Protection with the OSCE and MPSOTC, Greece

rom 30 August – 03 September, Peter supported a course on Cultural Property Protection for the Organisation for Peace and Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) with the Multinational Peace Support Operations Training Centre (MPSOTC) in Greece. Over 30 participants from ten countries attended the course in Kilkis.
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Cultural Heritage Protection (CHP) Subject Matter Expert Exchange

From 22 – 27 August 2021, Dr Michael Delacruz of the Blue Shield International (BSI) Secretariat, supported Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B) of US Southern Command in conducting a Cultural Heritage Protection (CHP) Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) in conjunction with the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia (IHAH), members of the Honduran Army, and supported by the Guatemalan Committee of the Blue Shield.
Read more

NATO Exercises

Throughout the year, Dr Emma Cunliffe and Dr Michael Delacruz of the BSI Secretariat have supported a number of NATO exercises and activities, including Noble Bonus 21, Steadfast Leda 21, and Steadfast Jackal 21.

Implementing the 1954 Hague Convention in Lebanon

From 4-5 November, President Peter Stone, and Dr Emma Cunliffe of the BSI Secretariat, together with UK National Committee Chair Fionnuala Rogers, in collaboration with the UNESCO Regional Office–Beirut, led a two-day training on Implementing the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols with 25 participants from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA).
Read more

Proactive Planning for the Protection of Archival Heritage in Crisis

In September, Dr Emma Cunliffe led a 2-hour workshop with Dr Emilie Gagnet Leumas on Proactive Planning for the Protection of Archival Heritage in Crisis: From International Law to Practice, for the Islamic Manuscript Association. Emilie is an Archives and Records Management Consultant, and the Blue Shield International ICA Board Representative, specialising in archival disaster management.

CPP training and capacity building with national and local emergency services, as well as with staff and volunteers from museums, libraries, archives, heritage sites and with youth were a mainstay of many NCs’ activities throughout the year.

Building partnerships and strengthening the Blue Shield’s action across the globe in person and online

Throughout 2021, BSI strengthened its interaction and partnership with authorities, policy makers, legal experts, heritage institutions and civil society organisations and communities. In addition to attending the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office Civil Society Dialogue Network Policy Meeting – The EU Concept on Cultural Heritage as a Component for Peace and Security in Conflict and Crisis Zones: Gathering Civil Society Input, and the United Kingdom Wilton Park meeting on Cultural Heritage Protection, Development and Diplomacy: International Approaches, BSI has attended and run events with partners around the world, in particular a number of Blue Shield national committees whose conferences are available online:

BSI President at Hellenic Committee conference

On the 19th April 2021, the Hellenic Committee of the Blue Shield, in collaboration with ICOMOS Hellenic National Committee and ICOM Hellenic National Committee, held an online conference to celebrate 200 years since the Greek War of Independence. The conference aimed to highlight the impact that antiquities had on Greek society before and during the 1821 Greek Revolution for the subsequent development of the legislation governing the protection of cultural heritage in Greece, and for legitimising the establishment of the modern Greek state itself in 1830. President Stone spoke on the work of the Blue Shield.
Read more and watch the conference online

President's keynote at Georgian Committee conference

On June 24-25, Giorgi Chubinashvili National Research Center for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation and the Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield hosted a virtual international conference Protection of Cultural Heritage on the Occupied Territories: Georgia and International Experience. The two-day conference presented international examples of cultural heritage protection in the occupied territories from Georgia and Ukraine. President Stone was honoured to give a keynote address.
Read more and watch the conference online

President's Keynote at Croatian Committee (in formation) conference

BSI President Peter Stone was honoured to speak at the international conference Solidarity in culture: Heritage protection under conditions of crisis, hosted by National and University Library in Zagreb, Croatia.
Read more and watch the conference online

Input into ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s Draft Policy on Cultural Heritage

On 16 April 2021, BSI was pleased to work with a diverse group of experts, including practicing attorneys, law professors and scholars, archaeologists, and other professionals with extensive expertise and experience in cultural heritage law, ICL and IHL, to submit comments to the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s Draft Policy on Cultural Heritage.
Read more and watch the conference online

President's Keynote at BS Poland Conference

The Polish Committee of the Blue Shield was the initiator and co-organizer of the Scientific International Conference entitled “Protecting the cultural heritage against particular hazards – climate, environment, pandemic and fire risks. Best practices”. The conference was held in Krakow, Poland, on November 25-26 in a hybrid system. President Stone was honoured to give a keynote:
watch the videos online

CPP: Global Capacity and Financing meeting and report with CHAC

Together with the Nordic Center for Cultural Heritage and Armed Conflict, Blue Shield International organised an Expert and Stakeholder Meeting to explore Cultural Property Protection: Global Capacity and Financing.
Read the report on the event

BSI joins NATO Stability Policing Conference

Professor Peter Stone was delighted to attend the NATO Stability Policing In Cultural Property Protection conference, which lasted for five days from 15-18 November. The conference was organised by the NATO Stability Policing Centre of Excellence in Vicenza.
Read more and watch the conference online

BSI signs CPP MoU with BS Lebanon and Biladi in Lebanon

Biladi, a Lebanese heritage NGO established in 2011, and Blue Shield Lebanon, an NGO dedicated to the safeguarding of CP through its network of volunteers – and recognised as a Blue Shield National Committee (BSL) in August 2020 – were both at the forefront of the emergency response after the blast, together with Blue Shield International (BSI). This effort created a strong partnership and helped towards the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the three organisations in Beirut on the 4th November 2021.
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President's Keynote at ICOM-ASPAC conference with Korea

President Stone spoke at the International Council of Museums Asia Pacific Alliance (ICOM-ASPAC)’s annual conference whose theme this year was The Pandemic as a Museum Disaster like no other; Sustainability of Museums and Public.
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CPP: Global Capacity and Financing meeting and report with CHAC

Blue Shield Turkey hosted the virtual International Conference on Protecting Cultural Heritage in Disasters and Crisis as part of Blue Shield’s 25th Anniversary events. Distinguished speakers from the international community in the field of cultural property protection spoke at the conference. These included BSI President, Professor Peter Stone, who spoke on 25 November, and BSI Secretariat Dr Emma Cunliffe, who spoke on 26th.
Read more here

Building partnerships and strengthening the Blue Shield’s action across the globe in person and online

In addition to a number of anniversary conferences, hosted by National committees, the UK Blue Shield hosted a highly successful panel – What is Cultural Property Protection (available here).

The year closed with an extremely successful, two-day 25th Anniversary Conference that brought together the Blue Shield family with present and potential future partners. Also taking part was a wide range of heritage experts from different disciplines who both inspired us and gave us much food for thought with their presentations. Once again we extend our sincere thanks to all of them.

The conference was followed by the Blue Shield General Assembly, bringing together our members around the world, and confirming their commitment to protecting heritage in crisis.

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