This is the second year that BSI, supported by Blue Shield Ireland, has organised, and led on a week-long cultural property protection (CPP) training course for the United Nations Training School in Ireland (UNTSI) located at the Curragh Camp about 40 minutes’ drive from Dublin. The course is targeted at European military personnel who are expecting to deploy overseas as UN peacekeepers. It introduces them to key organisations involved in CPP, like the Blue Shield, and to key CPP concepts through classroom presentations, followed by field exercises to put it into practice, focussing not just on cultural property protection, but the consequences for the mission if cultural property is damaged or destroyed.
During two days of mainly classroom presentations the participants were introduced slowly to a scenario where a small country, Wilfland, is being threatened by a larger aggressive neighbour, Bernicia. Supporters of Bernicia are becoming increasingly aggressive and open in efforts to destabilise Wilfland and the course participants are part of the new ‘Curragh Battalion’ being deployed in a peace support operation in the capital. On the third day of the course participants were introduced to a digital ‘tool’ for collection of CPP data in their area of responsibility. The participants then tested this out at the on-site museum at the Curragh Camp and the fourth day was spent on an initial recce in the capital Wilfdon (Dublin). The participants worked in small groups, gathering data using the tool, visiting a potentially high-profile group of mainly government buildings, the Catholic Cathedral, and the National Archive. While visiting these places they were met and briefed by concerned representatives from the Historic Buildings Agency, Cathedral, National Archive, and the Chief of the Capital’s Police. The plan was for each small group to brief the Force Commander on the possible threats to cultural property and potential consequences for the Battalion on the following day.
However, overnight the situation became significantly more difficult, and the general introductory briefs had to be modified to present immediate courses of action for the Battalion to mitigate active risks to cultural property that had the potential affect of destabilising the capital and country.
The course is intended to make all participants aware of their responsibilities, obligations, and opportunities, at home and on overseas deployments, regarding the protection of cultural property, the trade in illicit cultural property, and their relevance and potential impact on peace support mission success. Alongside in-person trainers drawn from BSI, Blue Shield Ireland, the Irish Defence Forces, and the Dutch military, the CPP capabilities in the British, French, Lebanese, and USA military were presented remotely to give participants a wide range of approaches to military CPP. As before, the course was also joined by two civilian heritage experts from Ireland.
Sixteen out of twenty participants, including Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and civilians completing course evaluation rated it “Excellent“.
BSI has built strong relations with Peacekeepers around the world. In October 2020, BSI signed an MoU with UNIFIL, the UN Interim force in Lebanon, building on 7 years of partnership buildings and training. Blue Shield has been working with UNIFIL, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA) since 2013, including a major training course in 2019, and the development of an action plan to preserve heritage sites during conflict.
BSI looks forward to the 2024 iteration of the UNTSI/BSI course, which is already being planned, and we aspire to share it with other UN Training Schools around the world.
Visit the website of the UN Training School Ireland