BSI: 2020 – A Year in Review

BSI: 2020 – A Year in Review

BSI: Looking back over 2020 and forward to this year’s 25th anniversary

Smiling white man in his sixties with a beard and glasses
Professor Peter Stone, President of The Blue Shield © BSI

For Blue Shield International (BSI), 2020 was a hugely challenging year, as indeed it was for the whole world. But, despite having to work largely online rather than face to face, most of Blue Shield’s projects went ahead, and much was achieved.

In August, during a virtual General Assembly, Peter Stone, BSI Vice President and UNESCO Chair for Cultural Property Protection (CPP) and Peace at Newcastle University, was elected to the position of President of BSI when Karl von Habsburg stepped down after more than ten years at the helm.

In the following clips, Peter shares his thoughts about BSI’s upcoming 25th anniversary celebrations and considers the other priorities for this year. He also recalls some of the successes and difficulties that BSI faced during 2020, and begins by reflecting on the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the global CPP and heritage sectors.

screenshot of zoom attendees
Blue Shield Virtual General Assembly 2020

One of the major constraints last year was on travel, making relationship building with new partners and potential donors a virtual experience at best. As Peter explains doing the follow up with the International Committee of the Red Cross after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with them in February, and signing a Letter of Intent with NATO later in the year posed challenges. In addition, BSI’s General Assembly (which is held every third year and which was scheduled to take place in Prague) had to be downsized, entailing a huge amount of work for BSI’s small Secretariat, which is funded by Newcastle University.

6 people in suits standing, with the centre man holding a document, holding a document, with a flag showing the red cross of the ICRC to the right
Signing of the MoU, 13 February 2020, Geneva. © ICRC 2020 From left to right: Benjamin Charlier (ICRC), Peter Stone (Vice-President of Blue Shield / Newcastle University), Karl von Habsburg (President Blue Shield), Helen Durham (ICRC), Yves Daccord (Director General ICRC), Jennifer Price Jones (Blue Shield)
For all its challenges, 2020 saw some significant work for Blue Shield as well. Blue Shield went into action within hours of the devastating explosion in Beirut on the 4th August. Karl von Habsburg (then President) went immediately to Lebanon, and together with the Lebanese National Committee of the Blue Shield and other organisations began assessing the destruction, and planning emergency repairs to damaged historic buildings, museums and archives. Peter followed soon afterwards. As Peter explains below, significant heritage protection work was conducted together with the Lebanese BS National Committee and a remarkable group of young volunteers. The work was made possible with funding from the Prince Claus Fund, ALIPH, The UK’s Cultural Protection Fund, and the Gerda Henkel Foundation.
Row of men and women in blue hats, blue vests, and masks
Blue Shield Lebanon volunteers working to help secure the museums and libraries in Beirut, after the catastrophic explosion on 4 August 2020 © Blue Shield Lebanon
men in beige army uniforms with blue berets and one man in smart casual attire look at ruins
Professor Peter Stone, Vice-President of BSI, supports CPP training for UNIFIL, Lebanon, August 2019. © Joe Farres
Blue Shield’s long-term work on CPP in Lebanon, which began in 2013 with the Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA), the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), paid huge dividends, creating a strong partnership for carrying out the work. The partnership was cemented during Peter’s visit when BSI signed an MoU for further CPP cooperation with UNIFIL, and its success was reflected in an award given to BSI by the Lebanese Armed Forces to thank them for their support.
Man in military uniform presents woman in suit with award plaque
Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly received LAF's gift last week on behalf of BSI, presented by General Houyek Head of the Beirut Forward Emergency Response.
Man in suit sits next to man in high ranking army dress uniform with blue beret, both behind a plaque with the blue shield logo, signing copies of a document.
Stefano Del Col Head of Mission Force Commander UNIFIL and Karl von Habsburg, former President of BSI, sign an MoU, 27 10 2020 © BSI 2020

This video showcases the work of Blue Shield, and in particular the Lebanese National Committee of the Blue Shield, to carry out Emergency Response for Cultural Property following the explosion. The work was supported by and carried out in collaboration with Blue Shield Lebanon, Blue Shield International, Directorate-General Of Antiquities of Lebanon, IFLA, ICOM-Lebanon, ICOMOS-Lebanon, Lebanese Library Association, UNESCO Beirut Office, ICOM – University Museums and Collections, Biladi and UNIFIL. The work could not have been carried out without the generous financial support of the ALIPH Foundation, British Council Cultural Protection Fund and the Prince Claus Fund, to whom we are sincerely grateful.

Stone also reflected on the current work of Blue Shield International, in Nagorno-Karabakh, for example, as well as looking to the future.

BSI will celebrate its 25th anniversary on 6 June of this year. A number of events are planned, and a favourite Blue Shield photo campaign on social media is already underway. As Peter outlines below, one of the key events will hopefully be a reconvened face-to-face Extraordinary General Assembly in Prague from the 1-3 September, which will bring together Blue Shield International and the National Committees for training, and to plan the next 25 years.

Map of the world with countries with national committees identified in blue, September 2021

Read more about the last 20 years of Blue Shield in Twenty Years Blue Shield (1996-2016) Krste Bogoeski

Read about the history of the Blue Shield

And read about the work of our national committees around the globe in our News and Activities or read about how they realise our areas of activity

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