Building humanitarian partnerships for heritage protection

Building humanitarian partnerships for heritage protection

Two men shake hands in front of the red cross of the ICRC on a wall
Professor Stone meets Nils Melzer, the ICRC’s Director of International Law, Policy, and Humanitarian Diplomacy, 14 March 2024 © BSI

Professor Peter Stone, President of the Blue Shield Movement, travelled to Switzerland to meet key leaders in the humanitarian sector. Successful heritage protection relies on engagement and partnership with the heritage, humanitarian and uniformed sectors, and those partnerships must be established in peace to be successful in crisis.

Professor Stone met with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross, who BSI signed an MoU with in 2020. There was unanimous agreement on the importance of cultural property protection and the links with human rights and the work of the humanitarian sector.

The humanitarian sector is only just beginning to recognise that heritage is an integral part of communities, and must be considered in its work. Blue Shield is a key partner, researching evidence and developing training to demonstrate the critical links between the two sectors.

In 2018, IOM conducted a “Rapid Mental Health and Psychosocial Needs” assessment with Rohingya refugees which revealed that 45% of respondents had been living with distress symptoms, such as nightmares, a sense of loneliness, panic attacks, somatic complaints, or suicidal thoughts. Furthermore, 50% identified an “identity crisis” as a common problem ... Further assessments revealed that 73% of respondents identified a loss of cultural identity following their forced exodus from Myanmar in 2017 as one of the main factors of distress.

In February, Blue Shield International launched a free online training course for humanitarians on when and how to include cultural heritage protection in humanitarian response.

“Heritage is a part of all of us, it is part of our identity and sense of belonging … By recognizing that culture is an extension of human beings, their dignity, their identity, and their history, we then understand the protection of culture as a humanitarian concern as much as education, shelter, and protection”.


Blue Shield and ICRC sign MoU (2020)

Watch this YouTube video about the cultural work of the IOM with the Rohingya Refugees



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