International Treaties and Other Legal Instruments

1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

See the full text of the convention at

History of the 1954 Hague Convention

This international convention regulates the conduct of nations during war and military occupation in order to assure the protection of cultural sites, monuments and repositories, including museums, libraries and archives. Written in the wake of the widespread cultural devastation perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II, and modeled on instructions given by General Eisenhower to aid in the preservation of Europe’s cultural legacy, the Hague Convention is the oldest international agreement to address exclusively cultural heritage preservation. The First Protocol was adopted in 1954 with the Convention. The Second Protocol was introduced in 1999 and came into force in 2004.

The Hague Convention covers immovable and movable cultural property, including monuments of architecture, art or history, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest, as well as scientific collections of all kinds regardless of their origin or ownership.

Why is the 1954 Hague Convention so Important?

The States which are party to the Convention benefit from a network of more than 100 States that have undertaken to lessen the consequences of armed conflict for cultural heritage and to take preventive measures for such protection not only in time of hostility (when it is usually too late), but also in time of peace, using a variety of measures:
  • Safeguard and respect cultural property during both international and non-international armed conflicts;
  • Consider registering a limited number of refuges, monumental centers and other immovable cultural property of very great importance in the International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection and obtain special protection for such property;
  • Consider marking certain important buildings and monuments with a special protective emblem of the Convention (the Blue Shield);
  • Set up special units within the military forces to be responsible for the protection of cultural heritage; and
  • Penalize violations of the Convention and promote widely the Convention within the general public and target groups such as cultural heritage professionals, the military or law-enforcement agencies.
United States Ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention

The United States helped to draft the Hague Convention and signed it in 1954. However, the Executive Branch decided not to transmit the treaty to the Senate for ratification due to military concerns about how it might affect policy at the height of the Cold War. At the end of the Cold War, the Department of Defense withdrew its objections and in 1995 the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommended that the U.S. Senate ratify the Convention. In 1999, President Bill Clinton transmitted the 1954 Hague Convention and a part of the First Protocol to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations with his support for ratification by the full Senate, along with a detailed report on its importance written by the Department of State. (See Treaty Doc. 106-1 January 6, 1999 at:

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations took no action until recently, when public attention given to the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and the looting of archaeological sites in southern Iraq during the ensuing years revived interest in the Convention. The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the Archaeological Institute of America formed a coalition of preservation organizations that submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in support of ratification, and worked with members of the Senate to promote ratification. The Statement of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield urging Senate ratification, joined by twelve other cultural preservation organizations, is available at: We acknowledge the additional assistance of the Society for American Archaeology and of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in the effort to achieve ratification of the Hague Convention.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the 1954 Hague Convention and several other Law of War treaties on April 15, 2008. The full Senate voted to give its advice and consent to ratification on September 25, 2008. The United States now joins 121 other nations in becoming a party to this historic treaty. By taking this significant step, the U.S. demonstrates its commitment to the preservation of the world’s cultural, artistic, religious and historic legacy.

Ratification will raise the imperative of protecting cultural heritage during conflict, including the incorporation of heritage preservation into military planning, will clarify the United States’ obligations, and will encourage the training of military personnel in cultural heritage preservation and the recruitment of cultural heritage professionals into the military. Cori Wegener, President of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, noted that “Ratification of the Hague Convention provides a renewed opportunity to highlight cultural property training for U.S. military personnel at all levels, and to call attention to cultural property considerations in the early stages of military planning. The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield will continue its commitment to offering cultural property training and coordination with the U.S. military and to increase public awareness about the 1954 Hague Convention and its international symbol, the Blue Shield.”

Patty Gerstenblith, President of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, cited among the advantages of ratification, “Most importantly, it sends a clear signal to other nations that the United States respects their cultural heritage and will facilitate U.S. cooperation with its allies and coalition partners in achieving more effective preservation efforts in areas of armed conflict.”

The Archaeological Institute of America has advocated ratification of the Hague Convention for more than fifteen years. John Russell, Vice President for Professional Responsibilities of the AIA, commented “By ratifying the 1954 Hague Convention, the U.S. has affirmed its commitment to protecting cultural property during armed conflict. The Archaeological Institute of America will continue to work with the Department of Defense to integrate the Convention's provisions fully and consistently into the U.S. military training curriculum at all levels.”

Requirements for National Committees of the Blue Shield
14 April 2000

Resolutions of the first Blue Shield International Meeting, held in Torino, Italy.
23-24 July 2004


USCBS Affiliated Organizations

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)

American Library Association International Relations Committee

Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)

Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA)

Society of American Archivists (SAA)

U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Mounuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS)

U.S. National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM-US))

Institutional Members

North Carolina Preservation Consortium

Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE)

Supporting Institutional Members

Archaeological Institute of America

Benefactor Institutional Members

American Library Association

USCBS is a member of the ANCBS (Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield), created by the 2006 Hague Blue Shield Accord

Organizations Forming ICBS (International Council of the Blue Shield)

ICA (International Council on Archives)

IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions)

ICOM (International Council of Museums)

ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites)

CCAAA (Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives)

Organizations Affiliated with ICBS

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)

ICCROM (International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property)

Blue Shield National Committee Links

Blue Shield, Australia

Blue Shield, France

Blue Shield, Macedonia

Blue Shield, Netherlands

Blue Shield, Norway

Blue Shield, Poland

Blue Shield, United Kingdom and Ireland