Sunday, 8 March 2015

No end in sight for destruction of world heritage?

Destruction of world heritage has hit the media headlines again this week as Islamic State are claimed not only to have destroyed the Assyrian City of Nimrud but also to have destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra, both in Iraq.

In 2013/14 I carried out research in to the effectiveness of international cultural property protection and concluded that the Hague Convention, the only international convention dealing with the protection of heritage in times of war, was ineffective and could not be expected to provide any meaningful level of protection.

"In its current form, it is not considered that the Hague Convention can in 
any way be expected to be successful in preventing damage and 
destruction of sites of Outstanding Universal Value or any other site of 
local, national or international significance"
- Lee Meadowcroft

My research demonstrated there to be a clear lack of clarity in what sites were offered protection and how that protection could be provided. Safeguarding, or peacetime preparation, is a fundamental strategy of protection and if significant planning has not been carried out there is no hope for heritage when conflict escalates to war.

For legislation to be effective it must be clear and enforceable. It is regrettable that no protection can be completely effective but more can and must be done. Development of improved heritage protection will take many years to complete and will require a great deal of coordinated research in to peacetime preparation, engagement with states, the intent and capacity of a state to comply with regulations, clarity of information and the dissemination of international law through domestic legislation and military manuals. Improvements must also be made in the way cultural property damage is reported in the media and condemned by governments.

Further information on my research can be found here, and the full research can be downloaded by following the link below:

The Impact of Conflict on Cultural Property

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you think can be done to safeguard world heritage in times of armed conflict.