Second Protocol 20 Years after
In March it recurs the twentieth anniversary of the Second Protocol (1999) to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. It is also fifteen years since the 30th ratification by a State Party when the protocol entered into force. An event that offers an important opportunity for a balance on what has been achieved so far and to define scenarios for the future.
No doubts, several important developments took place since than, the first being the formulation and delivery of the Guidelines for the implementation of the Second Protocol. It is a fundamental instrument providing indications for States Parties and other stakeholders engaged in the implementation of the Convention. The increasing number of properties nominated and eventually granted the status of Enhance Protection is a clear sign of the effectiveness of this instrument.
The creation of the ‘Blue Shield’ resulting from the merge between the ICBS and the ANCBS represents another important milestone in the implementation of the Convention moving in the direction envisaged by Prof. Patrick J. Boylan in his 1993 ‘Review of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict’ (Chapter 17) concerning the involvement of international, regional, national and local non governmental organisations.
A wide training offer for civil and military experts of various disciplines is now available. The First aid to Cultural Heritage Course provided by ICCROM represents perhaps the most specialised and effective training so far available. Higher education at Master and now also at PhD level start taking place. However, the professionals trained do not always find a proper match for the gained expertise.
The enforcement of international criminal law for the prosecution of the authors of crime against natural and/or cultural heritage set some important precedents. Equally, a great progress is registered in the advanced research on science and technology applied to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for natural and cultural heritage protection, and as a result, several new instruments are today available for the early detection as well as for the direct and remote assessment of existing threats to or damage suffered by heritage.
Many other important achievements should be listed here like the increased cooperation between UNESCO and other concerned international organisations such as ICRC and Interpol. UNESCO increased also its own efforts with the creation of a new office dedicated to disasters and since 2015 WH Committee in Bonn an increased coordination between the various UNESCO Conventions on Culture started.
However, in spite of the important progress registered, the lack of properly designed and implemented policies for the protection natural and cultural heritage remains the main weakness to be addressed. As a result, during the last twenty years we assisted to widespread destruction and loss of natural and cultural heritage due to disasters both natural and anthropogenic. Events often of unprecedented magnitude causing huge damage mostly occurred in the absence of adequate Risk Preparedness Plans (RPP) and DRR measures.
As no State Party in the world is provided of a sufficient number of trained staff in its payrolls, surely a broader engagement of specialised non governmental organisations and civil society organisations as well as other relevant stakeholders is necessary to secure that in times of need an efficient DRR mechanism is ready to deploy to prevent or mitigate the effects produced by major disasters.
2019 will be an excellent time for the definition of those additional instruments that are still necessary to enable States Parties to take a stronger stand in the implementation of effective measures for the protection of natural and cultural heritage at threat. Several events are planned on the occasion of the anniversary of the Second Protocol.