The Vice-President of the Blue Shield International, Professor Peter Stone, delivered a passionate speech about the role of BSI at the conference, Planning for the Unthinkable: Protecting the National Heritage Sector, organised and hosted by the V&A Museum (London, England) in partnership with the British Army on the 29th of November. In this context, he questioned whether the UK can be considered ready to deal with possible threats to heritage in the event of armed conflict, in the wake of recent UK ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Dr Paul Fox, a member of the Blue Shield International, constructively focused his speech on how state party armed forces and members of heritage communities need to work together to activate the 1954 Hague Convention, and on BSI’s training in this area, to showcase the differences between emergency planning for disasters, and for armed conflict. Dr Emma Cunliffe, Secretary of the UK Blue Shield, offered the UK perspective, raising some thought-provoking points about the weaknesses in the UK’s current implementation strategy for the Convention, questioning whether it goes far enough to provide the necessary support for British armed forces on operations globally.
The event was extremely well attended, with speakers including Michael Ellis (MP), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, and Keith Nichol, the UK Head of Cultural Diplomacy for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (i.e. Ministry of Culture), who both commented on the topic of CPP and the UK’s ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention from a political point of view.
The attendees – who included a number of eminent academics and senior international heritage professionals dealing with the protection of cultural properties – discussed the necessity of developing efficient safeguarding measures to protect the UK’s heritage from natural and man-made disasters, and to consider to what extent they were ready to face the threat of armed conflict, globally. The audience showed enthusiasm and an high level of participation in the discussions, which it is hoped will lead to stronger implementation of cross-sector safeguarding measures across the UK.