Is cultural property more important than lives?

Is cultural property more important than lives?

Building on the firm belief that cultural heritage is inseparable from people, the Blue Shield always puts the needs of people before the protection of cultural property. However, we also acknowledge the work of those who have willingly chosen to risk their lives to protect heritage (see examples in this news article about Syria in The Conversation). We also respect the risks taken by armed forces around the world, who may also risk their lives in line with their mission parameters, such as the UN Peacekeepers in Mali, whose mandate includes protecting the shrines of Timbuktu.

The Blue Shield believes that the protection of cultural property is essentially inseparable from the protection of people and their human rights, in particular in the context of international humanitarian law, which relates exclusively to armed conflict. In this context, the lives of active combatants, and of those who are no longer willing or able to fight, are no less paramount than the lives of civilians caught up in conflict zones. As such, the Blue Shield upholds the principles of necessity, proportionality, and humanity, which lie at the heart of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The Blue Shield understands that our commitment to the protection of human life and cultural property may in extremis require the loss of heritage in order to end a conflict as quickly as possible whilst minimising the loss of lives of both civilians and soldiers.

In order to support the armed forces complete their mission as quickly as possible with the minimum loss of life whilst still protecting cultural property, the work of the Blue Shield sits at the crux of military necessity and humanity.

Our ethical framework is supported by international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. You can read more about these in our Law Library.

Mosque in Timbuktu, Mali

Now protected as part of the UN Security Council MINUSMA Mandate

© Photo by Lazare Eloundou Assomo, UNESCO, CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit our page on our Ethics and Principles, or read more about cultural property protection and ethics in our Document Library

Read more about military necessity and the Laws of Armed Conflict in our Law Library

Read more about cultural heritage and the Malian MINUSMA Mandate on the UN MINUSMA website

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