May 14, 2024 marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The 1954 Hague Convention, as it is commonly known, is the most significant legal protection of cultural property, and has today been ratified by over 130 countries.

To commemorate this important global agreement, UNESCO held an international conference titled, “Cultural Heritage and Peace: Building on 70 Years of The Hague Convention.” From May 13-15, dozens of cultural protection workers gathered at the Peace Palace and the World Forum in the Netherlands to celebrate the achievements of the past 70 years, foster partnerships between cultural heritage organizations and professionals, and look to the future of cultural property protection.

The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS) was honored to attend and participate, with many Board members serving leadership roles in various events and panels throughout the conference. On May 14th, Laurie Rush spoke as part of the session, “Building military capacity on cultural property protection,” while Corine Wegener served as moderator for the session, “New technologies and the protection of cultural property.” Corine Wegener also helped to organize a session the following day titled, “Documenting the Destruction of Heritage and Seeking Solutions,” in which Blue Shield International Secretariat, Emma Cunliffe, served as a panelist.

Panelists at the “Documenting the Destruction of Heritage and Seeking Solutions” session on May 15, 2024. Left to right: Emma Cunliffe, Blue Shield International; Vasyl Rozhko, Ukrainian Heritage Monitoring Lab; Marina Lostal, University of Essex, moderator Bijan Rouhani, Chair of the Cultural Emergency Rescue Board and University of Oxford. Photo courtesy of Almicheal Fraay.

Organizers of the “Documenting the Destruction of Heritage and Seeking Solutions” session on May 15, 2024. Left to right: Corine Wegener, Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and USCBS; Peter Stone, Blue Shield International; and Sanne Leschert, Cultural Emergency Response. Photo courtesy of Almicheal Fraay.

Representing the USCBS at the conference was President Patty Gerstenblith, who joined Blue Shield National Committee representatives from Lebanon, Croatia, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, France, Austria, Guatemala, and Curacao. The members of all ten organizations were eager to share how their National Committees advocate for community involvement in their home countries.

Blue Shield International with representatives from the Blue Shield National Committees in Austria, Croatia, Curacao, France, Germany, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US, as well as the IFLA Board representative at the “Cultural Heritage and Peace: Building on 70 Years of The Hague Convention” in the Netherlands on May 14, 2024. Courtesy of Blue Shield International.

Finally, in his capacity as Director of Research and Programs for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, USCBS Board member Brian I. Daniels spoke as a panelist for The Hague Humanity Hub’s event, “Cultural Rights Defenders’ Safety In Times of Conflict and Repression,” on May 12th. This event was co-hosted by the Penn Cultural Heritage Center and the Artistic Freedom Initiative before the start of the official UNESCO conference.

USCBS is grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this important event and would like to thank the organizers for hosting a fantastic conference to commemorate this historic milestone. Recordings, photos, and articles from the conference can be found on UNESCO’s website.

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