About our Anniversary!
When fighting broke out in former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s
“the reaction of the professional community was uncoordinated and inefficient. For example, multiple missions were mounted to Sarajevo, and while doubtless helpful in showing solidarity with professional colleagues there, these were generally carried out in ignorance of each other, and valuable opportunities for sharing information and resources were missed … There was clearly scope for increased co-operation”.
George McKenzie, co-founder of ICBS (2000, 5)
25 years ago, four international heritage organisations recognised the need for greater cooperation to protect cultural heritage at risk from conflict and disaster.
On 6 June 1996, Patrick Boylan (representing International Council of Museums – ICOM), Dinu Bumbaru (representing International Council on Monuments and Sites – ICOMOS), George Mackenzie (representing International Council on Archives —ICA) and Marie-Therese Varlamoff (representing International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions — IFLA) concluded and signed a permanent cooperation agreement on behalf of their respective organisations under the name of “The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS)”. The signing took place in the ICOM offices in UNESCO, Paris.
ICBS went on to become the Blue Shield – an organisation composed not just of these founding four organisations, but with national committees around the world coordinated by an International Board made up of representatives of the four founding institutions and members nominated by the National Committees. Today it is:
“committed to the protection of the world’s cultural property, and is concerned with the protection of cultural and natural heritage, tangible and intangible, in the event of armed conflict, natural- or human-made disaster.” (Articles of Association 2.1 2016)
It’s a great privilege to represent the Blue Shield at this landmark time. The organisation has gone from strength to strength and it’s a testimony to the vision and hard work of people around the world. Only when heritage professionals work in partnership with governments, local communities, the humanitarian sector and those in uniform can heritage truly be protected during crisis. That was the vision of our founders, and one we are proud to continue to today.
Often referred to as the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross, the Blue Shield is a non-governmental, non-profit, international organisation, working to protect museums, monuments, archaeological sites, archives, libraries and audio-visual material, and significant natural areas, as well as intangible heritage. Members include the founding organisations, governments, emergency services, armed forces, academics, and all those with responsibility for heritage protection in crisis.
We found our work in key international frameworks and law, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and in particular the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which designates our namesake – the distinctive blue shield emblem signifying cultural property protected in conflict. This landmark legislation was followed in 1999 by a Second Protocol, which recognises the Blue Shield as an official advisory body to the international Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (article 27.3).
As heritage continues to be threatened by crises around the world, the Blue Shield stands ready to help.