LCIL Friday lecture: 'Implementing the 1954 Hague Convention: Conflicts between People and Heritage' - Helen Frowe, University of Stockholm

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Lecture summary: In 2017, the British Government ratified the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in Times of Armed Conflict (henceforth, the Hague Convention). This Convention, along with its two Additional Protocols, sets out the obligations of states with respect to cultural heritage in war. War throws up a range of conflicts between protecting people and protecting heritage, in terms of both the use of resources, and the imposition and incurring of risk. And yet, from UNESCO to the Blue Shield, those working in heritage insist that such conflicts between people and heritage are impossible. For example, Irina Bokova, the former director-general of UNESCO, claims that, “there is no need to choose between saving lives and preserving cultural heritage: the two are inseparable.” In this talk, I argue that the failure to recognise these conflicts comprehensively undermines the heritage community’s response to the legal demands made by the Hague Convention. If we refuse to acknowledge that these conflicts can even in principle arise, we are ill-equipped to deal with them. Given that the Hague Convention requires combatants to deal with them, this is a pressing problem.

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