International Committee of the Blue Shield
Following the Second World War, UNESCO adopted the Hague Convention (1954) which created rules to protect cultural goods during armed conflicts. This Convention was the first international treaty aimed at protecting cultural heritage in the context of war and which highlighted the concept of common heritage.
The Blue Shield is the symbol used to identify cultural sites protected by this Convention. It is also the name of the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) that works to protect world cultural heritage threatened by natural and human-made disasters.
A Professional Committee, an International and Independent Organisation
The International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) covers museums and archives, audiovisual supports, libraries, and monuments and sites. It brings together the knowledge, experience and international networks of the following non-governmental organisations dealing with cultural heritage:
-ICA: International Council on Archives
-ICOM: International Council of Museums
-IFLA: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
-ICOMOS: International Council on Monuments and Sites
-CCAAA: Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations
Increasing awareness, Training, Intervention
ICBS works for the protection of the world cultural heritage by coordinating preparations to meet and respond to emergency situations as well as post-crisis support.
ICBS promotes good standards through risk management training and awareness-raising campaigns for professionals and the general public. Its unrivalled body of expertise allows the Organisation to collect and shares information on threats to cultural property worldwide, thus helping international players to take the appropriate measures in case of armed conflict or disaster. ICBS intervenes as an advisor and cooperates with other bodies including UNESCO, ICCROM and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICEC). Finally in emergency situations, ICBS encourages the safeguarding and the restoration of cultural property, the protection of threatened goods, and helps the professionals from the affected countries to recover from disasters.
The Second Protocol to the Hague Convention agreed in April 1999 gave a new impetus to ICBS’s role and that of its associated organisations. Indeed, ICBS is recognised as an advisory international organisation to the inter-governmental Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
A National Committee Structure
The international initiative of ICBS is taken up and supported by local initiatives. Blue Shield Committees were set up in 20 countries and are being formed in 19 other countries. They bring together the various professions, local and national government, the emergency services and the armed forces. They also provide a forum for them to improve emergency preparedness by sharing experiences and exchanging information. They supply a focus for raising national awareness of the threats to cultural heritage. These Committees promote the ratification and implementation by national governments of the Hague Convention. The Association of National Committees of the Blue shield (ANCBS) has its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. It was founded in December 2008 to coordinate the efforts made by all the National Committees regarding the strategic and operational guidelines adopted by ICBS.