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Archaeology Matters

CBA pushes for definite timescales for protection of cultural property

A recently issued government statement has given us some very positive signs that the Hague convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict may finally get the parliamentary time it requires to become ratified.

In the statement, which was released on Saturday, John Whittingdale - Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport – stated that “I am in no doubt that the UK must also do what we can to prevent any further cultural destruction.” He then followed this with three commitments:

  • At the first opportunity, we plan to bring forward new legislation to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
  • The Government will be developing a new cultural protection fund that will support the protection of cultural heritage and the recovery from acts of cultural destruction. Through this fund, we hope to help safeguard the heritage of countries affected by conflict or at risk of coming under attack for ideological reasons.
  • This summer I will bring together a summit of senior Government colleagues, cultural leaders from the British Museum, V&A and British Council and other key organisations, such as UNESCO and the Red Cross, to advise on the proposed new legislation and shape the delivery of a new cultural protection fund.

This was accompanied with supporting statements from George Osborne - Chancellor of the Exchequer - and Philip Hammond - Foreign Secretary - helping to demonstrate the sincerity of their approach.

This is obviously a very promising sign and the CBA welcomes this progress, which would not only ratify the Hague convention, but take additional steps to protect international heritage in times of conflict – namely the establishment of a cultural protection fund.

However, CBA Director, Dr Mike Heyworth, was counter signatory to a letter in the Daily Telegraph yesterday expressing our concerns that there appears to be no timescale attached to the commitment to ratify – a commitment that successive governments have made, and failed to deliver on. The Government’s statement also makes no mention of the important second protocol to the 1954 convention.

The letter’s other signatories were Professor Peter G Stone: Chairman of the UK National Committee of the Blue Shield, Sir Barry Cunliffe: Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, Oxford University, Professor Eleanor Robson: Chairman of Council, British Institute for the Study of Iraq, and Julian Radcliffe: Chairman, International Art and Antique Loss Register

To see the full text of the letter go to the Telegraph’s website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/11693854/Letters-The-justice-system-must-reform-to-be-less-slow-confusing-and-unfair.html

Dr Heyworth said today, “We very much welcome the Government’s signal that it intends to ratify the Convention. We hope that Parliamentary time can be found in the coming months and we stand ready to assist, together with members of the All Party Parliamentary Group.”

We encourage you to add your voice to our own and lobby your local MP to keep momentum up on this important piece of cultural legislation.

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