On July 19th, the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) was invited to lend their support to a public statement being drafted by the International Council of the Blue Shield (ICBS) in relation to the current situation in the Middle East and the resulting destruction of Cultural Property.
Situations such as the war in the Middle East are politically charged so it is always a challenge to draft a neutral statement. However, not making a statement might also be argued as indifference to the plight. With this in mind, the AMIA Board voted in favor of supporting a public statement that considered cultural objects and materials on both sides of the conflict and as time was of the essence, the statement was published on July 20th.
The Blue Shield network is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross and
strives to protect cultural objects and sites in the event of natural or
man-made disasters. The International Committee of the Blue Shield, founded in 1996, comprises representatives of the five Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in this field: International Council on Archives (www.ica.org), International Council of Museums (www.icom.org), International Council on Monuments and Sites (www.icomos.org), International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (www.ifla.org), and Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (www.ccaaa.org)
ICBS works in co-operation with UNESCO, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Further information about ICBS is available from its website (http://www.ifla.org/blueshield.htm
For a copy of the statement please see below.
Statement by the ICBS on threatened cultural property in Middle East
The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) deplores the
unacceptable loss of human lives, the considerable suffering, the rapid
displacement of entire communities, and the destruction that is currently
taking place in areas administered by Israel, the Lebanon and the
Palestinian Authority. It is also extremely concerned by the threat that the
present conflict could escalate still further.
ICBS, founded in 1996 'to work to protect the world's cultural heritage
threatened by wars and natural disasters', now calls on all parties to be
respectful of the cultural property in the region. In making this statement,
ICBS takes no position on any other issue relating to conflicts in the
Cultural property is priceless and irreplaceable, of vital importance not
only to each community, but also to humanity. Historical sites and
monuments, paintings and museum artifacts, books and libraries, manuscripts and archives all recount the history of the communities affected and of mankind as a whole. They are extremely vulnerable to attack during armed conflicts and, if they are damaged or destroyed, it is always difficult and often impossible to replace them or to restore them to their former condition. If the cultural heritage does not survive intact, then present and future generations in the region will not be able to appreciate their cultural identity in the fullest sense. Media and ICBS network reports indicate that there is a considerable risk that the cultural heritage of the various peoples in the region will suffer permanent losses.
It is universally recognized that this region has an extremely rich cultural
heritage, which has had a profound and lasting influence on peoples
throughout the world. This is demonstrated by the significant number of
sites in both Israel and Lebanon inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The total or partial loss of that heritage would seriously impoverish the collective memory of mankind.
It would be a great tragedy if this is allowed to happen. ICBS therefore
calls on all parties to take the greatest possible care to protect the rich
cultural heritage of the region and to take the necessary preventive
measures to ensure that it is not damaged in any way during the present
While ICBS is keenly aware that there are other compelling concerns at times
of armed conflict, not least the loss of human life, it wishes to stress
that international law prohibits the use of cultural property for military
purposes or to shield military objectives. It urges all parties concerned to
respect the provisions of The Hague Convention for the Protection of
Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols, as
well as the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which calls on countries 'not to take any deliberate measures which might damage directly or indirectly the cultural and natural heritage' in the territory of other countries that are party to this Convention. Israel and Lebanon have ratified both of these Conventions.
ICBS is willing to respond to any requests for technical assistance and
co-ordination which may be required, insofar as its resources permit.
Finally, once again ICBS calls upon all governments which have not yet
ratified The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols to do so as quickly as
Adopted by the International Committee of the Blue Shield on 20/7/2006