How can the Blue Shield emblem protect Ukraine’s cultural property from Russia?

History has recorded several incidents when armed conflict caused the looting and destruction of cultural heritage. The war between Russia and Ukraine is wreaking havoc on people’s lives, properties and dreams. The screens are filled with dominant destructive images and the missiles bombarding the symbol of development and identity are equally discouraging.

Recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, said it would do its best to save Ukraine’s priceless heritage from Russian aggression. They reiterated the duty of the international community to protect and preserve the country’s historic buildings, as well as other treasures.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, said that “cultural heritage must be safeguarded as a testimony to the past, but also as a catalyst for peace and cohesion for the future, which the international community has a duty to protect. and preserve”.

CCOE/A. Werres

Here is all about the Blue Shield emblem and how it can play an important role in the preservation of cultural property during armed conflict.

What is the Blue Shield Emblem?

The Blue Shield emblem is a symbol of protection used in armed conflict. The 1954 Hague Convention proposed an emblem for the protection of cultural property and to identify those working for its protection.

According to Article 6 of the 1954 Hague Convention, cultural property may bear an emblem for its recognition and, above all, its misuse must be reported to the Red Cross. The use of the cultural emblem is limited by international laws.

The 1954 Hague Convention and its emergence

Looking at the past, the glorious history is married to the war which also cost people’s lives. The war of weapons, weapons does not only impact human lives, infrastructures but the large-scale destruction of preserved cultural heritage.

Russia-Ukraine conflict

With the release of the need for preservation of universal historical and cultural heritage, the popularly known “Hague Convention” was adopted to protect cultural property in the event of armed conflict. In 1954, the convention was adopted with the support of UNESCO.

What does cultural property include?

It was the first-ever international treaty for the protection of cultural heritage in times of peace and armed conflict. The objective of the convention is to protect cultural property, including architectural monuments, museums, monuments, archaeological sites, archives, libraries and audiovisual material, important natural areas, intangible heritage, art or history, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest and scientific collections of any kind, regardless of their origin or ownership.

International humanitarian law

The two protocols to the convention (1954 and 1999) are part of international humanitarian law (IHL) which is often called the law of war or the law of armed conflict.

blue shield emblem

It is a set of rules aimed at reducing the impact of armed conflict on people and property. Under this law, the Hague Convention and its two Protocols refer to cultural property and its protection.

The Blue Shield network

According to the website, “the Blue Shield is a network of committees of dedicated individuals who are committed to the protection of the world’s cultural assets and are concerned with the protection of cultural and natural heritage, tangible and intangible, in the event of armed, natural or human conflict – makes a disaster.

Founded in 1996, the Blue Shield Network is an international, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to protecting heritage from threats such as armed conflict and natural disasters around the world. It has the cultural equivalence of the Red Cross.

Some negative results…

During such situations of tension, some States refrained from using the emblem, as the marking would increase the visibility of their identity or preserved national symbols to the enemy. Such an example was seen during the war in the former Yugoslavia when their Blue Shield marked cultural property was deliberately targeted.

Russia-Ukraine conflict

Currently, the Ukrainian property inscribed on the World Heritage List is St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, etc.

Significantly, satellite imagery of priority sites is also analyzed in association with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the initial challenge is to mark cultural heritage first and, as the media suggest, the process has been launched in the country.

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