This year (2022) Blue Shield International is delighted to welcome two more national committees to the Blue Shield Movement – Niger and Slovakia. Blue Shield now recognises 30 accredited National Committees (NCs) around the world, with more in formation round the world. This add to our pleasure in recognising Mali and Turkey in 2021.
Although many countries were (and still are) dealing with the crippling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, over 2021, work has increased in all areas. NCs remained active and engaged, adapting their plans as necessary and implementing their activities online as well as in person. NCs plan and implement their activities depending on their specific priorities and needs with regard to cultural property protection (CPP), working within any (or all) of six key programme areas: Proactive protection and risk preparedness; Emergency response; Stabilisation, post-disaster recovery, and long-term/ongoing support activities; Legal compliance, policy, and their implementation; Capacity building activities, and education and training in support of Blue Shield’s Areas of Activity; and Coordination – of Blue Shield members and with partner organisations.
Coordination between the Movement
There is good support between national committees, such as the assistance given by the Czech Republic and US committees to the Slovak committee when forming; Blue Shield Denmark are working on establishing closer contact with other Nordic Blue Shield national committees; volunteers from Blue Shield France and Netherlands helped after the floods in Belgium of July 2021; and the German Committee has been working with the African National committees to do a brochure about the work of the Blue Shield in Africa. Many committees also supported the 25th Anniversary celebrations.
Coordination nationally and internationally
National committees are engaging with their military and military academies, including building some new connections; as well as with international organisations such as: Calamities’ Think Tank of the Faro Convention; UNESCO and its national commissions; National disaster management agencies of Curacao; Global Policy Project UNESCO Memory of the World; European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM); and UNITWIN Chairs of UNESCO that deal with the issues of natural disasters; as well as a massive number of local NGO partners and institutions and governments, including, local emergency response services, national heritage agencies, and local Red Cross Societies.
Education, Training, and Capacity Building
The work of the Blue Shield national committees has great global reach. National committees have been involved in, or have directly organised, a large number of webinars, conferences, workshops and summer academies on heritage protection, disaster prevention, world heritage, and information and awareness raising, covering not only their own areas, but also Azerbaijan, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, and Mongolia. Many of the conferences attended and organised are not only heritage protection conferences, but disaster conferences, and conferences on, for example, religious freedom, highlighting the diversity of areas heritage protection. National committees supported military training in the US, Ireland, Honduras, Georgia, Poland, and Lebanon, as well as supporting formal education ranging from universities to primary schools.
Proactive Protection and Risk Preparedness
Blue Shield national committees around the world are very active in risk preparedness and risk mitigation. Many national committees are carrying out training and working with governments and institutions to improve their risk preparedness.
Training courses, exercises, and workshops have included emergency planning in libraries, museums, crisis management, flood response, and object evacuation.
Blue Shield Committees have been heavily involved in emergency response to conflicts and disasters, not only in their countries but supporting colleagues abroad following floods, fires, landslides, tornados, hurricanes/tropical storms, and volcanic eruptions, as well as in the wake of conflict.
The Belgian, German, Netherlands, and French National Committees were all heavily involved in the response to the floods, and Blue Shield Turkey was involved in responding to the 2021 summer wildfires. The Czech Republic Committee offered assistance following the tornado in southern Moravia. Blue Shield Iceland Committee provided advice in the aftermath of the Seyðisfjörður Landslide, and members of the US Committee supported emergency assessments in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas following hurricanes/tropical storms. The Guatemalan and Curacao Committees, supported by Blue Shield Netherlands, provided conservation advice following the volcanic eruption St Vincent and the Grenadines. Blue Shield Guatemala also conducted a Post Disaster Damage Assessment at Quiriguá and Yaxhá archaeological sites after ETA and IOTA tropical storms. Blue Shield Netherlands provided conservation advice to UCT Libraries in Cape Town after a fire. The US, Cameroun, and the UK also all provided support to countries affected by conflict.
Stabilisation and post-disaster recovery
Following the immediate disaster response, committees are also engaged in the long-term work resulting from this. Activities have included creation of crisis committees and working groups to follow up on lessons learned following the immediate disaster in Belgium and Turkey; research into how to better protected affected heritage; seminars for those at risk of similar situations – for example, Karl von Habsburg, President of Blue Shield Austria, took part in two seminars in Tallin and Tartu (Estonia) to share the experiences and expertise of the Blue Shield movement following the disaster in Beirut, as 12 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in the port of Tallinn; Blue Shield France have created a database on disasters that affected cultural heritage in France, in order to make a yearly overview and statistical analysis of key information such as the type of disasters that occurred, the type of cultural heritage at risk, damage to collections etc. The yearly overview is shared with local government bodies and decision-makers; Blue Shield Georgia is engaged in long-term mapping of affected heritage following conflict to see the consequences over time; and committees are also supporting ongoing stabilisation and rehabilitation of heritage after conflict, such as the work of the US Committee in Syria and Iraq.
Law, Implementation, and Policy Development
Almost all of those committees which are still voluntary groups are actively exploring how to legally register as organisations to better fundraise. There are many excellent examples of work to encourage better implementation of law, and policy work. Many are working on better implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention: several committees provided input into their national Periodic Report to UNESCO on the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention, including Australia, US, and the Netherlands. They commented on gaps in heritage protection legislation, value of training for heritage professionals and emergency management personnel. Australia is actively advocating to their government to ratify the Second Protocol (1999).
Of course, work extends beyond the 1954 Hague Convention and Protocols. For example, the Netherlands National Committee replied to the consultation of the Draft Policy on Cultural Heritage of the Office of the Prosecutor’s Working Group on the Protection of Cultural Heritage. Blue Shield N. Macedonia are supporting the Head Office for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the creation of a National Strategy for Protection and Use of Cultural Heritage (2021- 2025). any committees are lobbying for better disaster and emergency planning in government structures. Following initial work by Blue Shield Curacao, the Director of the Directorate Disaster Management and Security of the Government of Curacao included cultural heritage as an area of interest in the National Disaster Plan with the advice to raise awareness among cultural stakeholders on matters of security. Blue Shield Curacao are now working to include cultural heritage as a full Emergency Support Function. Numerous committees are also working to prevent the trade in illegal antiquities, lobbying for better legal regulation.
2021 – National Committee News
Find the 2020 Annual Reports and 2021 Strategic Plans of our National Committees in our Document Library
Read more about the work of our national committees and see presentations of their work on our National Committee page
or find the contact details for our committees around the globe