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Disaster Response, Peacekeeping & Stability Operations, and Cultural Heritage Protection: Capacity Development through the Inter-American System
Michael F. Welch, 2/1/2011

One of the lessons learned from last year's devastating earthquake in Haiti was that external responders did not have general knowledge of Haitian cultural sites, including Jacmel, which has been on Haiti’s Tentative List for World Heritage nomination since 2004. Yet, protection of cultural sites is a need identified both through International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and is also important for religious significance, economic development, and many other reasons. The following article describes cultural property initiatives developed as part of a program to help meet the need for protecting these sites through coordination with governmental and non-governmental organizations, particularly with military and security officials of and Latin American States, through December 2010. Several references are provided at the end of this article to assist understanding. These provide more detailed information about conventions and other documents pertinent to the proposed initiatives.


Military and security representatives of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago in Washington, D.C. and I began by preparing a presentation to the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Caucus of Ambassadors and other regional and national representatives to seek several cultural property protection (CPP) objectives that apply to all Caribbean states.  As the initiatives progressed, regional and national officials from the other American States, as well as international and non-governmental organizations, have begun evaluating and participating in these CPP initiatives for further application.

The objective is to facilitate creation through the Inter-American System of an environment in the Americas to better protect cultural properties and facilitate cooperative relations with external entities. There are three main objectives, with the first two intended to establish conditions to achieve the third. The first two are state accessions to the 1954 Hague Convention (Barbados is the sole CARICOM country that has ratified this convention; all other American States have joined) and creation of both National Committees of the Blue Shield (in CARICOM, Haiti has the only Blue Shield Committee which was created subsequent to the 2010 earthquake; most Latin American States do not have functioning national committees) and International Military Cultural Resources Working Group (IMCuRWG) representation. The third objective is development of mechanisms to extend mandates for identification, planning, and training to protect cultural properties, such as those found under the 1954 Hague Convention, to natural and non-natural disaster situations, as well as peacekeeping and stability operations. Other initiatives that are complementary to achieving these objectives are also discussed below.  

“Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.” 

—Thomas Paine

Requirements Identification

Prior to reviewing the initiatives, the basic understanding of requirements and scope of application should be understood. For example, the Akwé: Kon Guidelines were developed to facilitate knowledge of the complex environment of indigenous and local communities recognized in the Convention on Biological Diversity, which includes cultural properties considerations. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also supports the issue of cultural properties as a human right. However, the conditions of disaster response, peacekeeping and stability operations don’t provide the environment necessary to support a comprehensive environmental impact assessment as envisioned in the Akwé: Kon Guidelines, nor in other common international and national legal frameworks for major operations. Although the 1954 Hague Convention provides guidance in developing cultural property protection programs, States that do not envision conflict conditions covered by International Humanitarian Law (IHL) may not see the Convention’s relevancy or place priority on compliance. Therefore, a need exists for strengthening mechanisms to identify and plan for cultural property protection prior to the advent of emergency conditions.

A mechanism to apply CPP to non-IHL situations also will facilitate identification and acquisition of enabling resources, as well as improved planning. In the Draft DPKO/DFS Operational Concept on the Protection of Civilians [(POC)] in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Section III Current Understanding of POC highlights the full range of protection activities and associated flexibility required by UN peacekeeping operations and Section IV Current mission activities relevant to POC outlines a variety of activities that inherently include CPP as a component. However, CPP is implied and not specifically stated. This implied form of reference exists in many documents.  As a result, personnel and other resources necessary for enacting CPP are not included in support packages. Also, unspecified compliance contributes to conditions where participants throughout the operational lifecycle fail to consider CPP and may unintentionally degrade cultural properties. Training often focuses on intentional targeting of cultural properties, but experience has demonstrated that damage often is caused through ignorance of cultural heritage during operational and logistic planning.

Other CPP factors under the conditions proposed were demonstrated in Haiti during 2010. The Haitian Delegation to the OAS noted that the Haitian system of historic fortifications is one of the cultural resources that can be developed further to improve the tourism industry in Haiti and was not understood well during initial response.  Also, disaster responders often could not properly relate to Haitian religious cultural sites that were not reflective of iconic structures associated with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which created conditions for compromise of these sites. In addition, sites associated with intangible cultural activities can be a catalyst to social and economic recovery and the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project is considering how these types of sites might be identified and incorporated into operational concepts. There are many other CPP factors, but the main point is that in reviewing the following initiatives, cultural properties and CPP should be considered in their complex diversity of existence within the environment and proper planning, training and resourcing accomplished to meet CPP requirements.

Initiative I: Ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention

The 1954 Hague Convention has been ratified by all states in the Americas except the CARICOM states with the exception of Barbados. Although the probabilities of zone of conflict conditions are not strong in the Caribbean, the convention provides guidance on CPP, preparation for activities such as participation in UN Peacekeeping Missions, and strengthens the Rule of Law and associated institution building. If any state is interested in acceding to the Convention, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Division of Cultural Objects and Intangible Heritage, as well as other officials such as the president of the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Protection (LCCHP, http://www.culturalheritagelaw.org/) and secretary general for the World Association for the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in times of armed conflicts (WATCH, http://www.eyeonculture.net/), have pledged to provide assistance in the accession process if desired.

Initiative II: Establishment of National Committes of the Blue Shield and International Military Cultural Resources Working Group (IMcuRWG) Participation

The President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS) and the President of the United States National Committee of the Blue Shield coordinated support on all issues proposed: accession to the 1954 Hague Convention, creation of Blue Shield bodies, and assistance with implementation of cultural heritage protection measures. As part of their recovery efforts in Haiti, ANCBS worked projects described on their website (http://www.ancbs.org/) and assisted in the creation of the Haiti National Committee of the Blue Shield, the only National Committee of the Blue Shield among CARICOM states. The ANCBS is working to develop national committees to foster cooperation and develop synergies to enhance all aspects of their mission and are ready to assist if the relevant national entities seek to establish a national committee. Also, having considered resource constraints, the ANCBS indicated they would consider a regional arrangement such as a Regional Security System-affiliated committee if there were a preference to pursue that option.

Although countries may have National Trusts and other entities that support cultural properties such as museums, archives, and archaeological sites, these entities normally function to manage and improve their institutions professionally and are not designed for disaster management. Likewise, international organizations linked with cultural properties such as the International Council of Museums and the International Council of Archives seek to promote professional and institutional development.  Therefore, the need to develop Blue Shield National Committees should not duplicate existing capacity.

A complementary action to create a supportive environment for implementing the 1954 Hague Convention and facilitating implementing CPP protocols is participation of national representatives in the International Military Cultural Resources Working Group (IMCuRWG). In 2009, the IMCuRWG was established with a mission statement that included enhancing military capacity to implement cultural property protection across the full range of operations, providing a forum for international co-operation and networking for those working within the military context, identifying areas of common interest, sharing best practices and lessons learned, and raising awareness and publicize military commitment to the protection of cultural property and cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. In 2010, LTC Joris Kila of The Netherlands was elected president and is negotiating the support infrastructure with several governments. To date, IMCuRWG participants are primarily from Europe, North America, and the Middle East, but the organization is seeking to establish a network in all regions.  Therefore, contacted governments were asked to provide official military or equivalent civilian points of contact and proper procedures to consider and possibly implement IMCuRWG participation.

Initiative III: Development of Mechanisms to Apply Cultural Property Protection to Natural and Non-Natural Disaster Situations, as Well as Peacekeeping and Stability Operations

The Inter-American Convention to Facilitate Disaster Assistance of 1991 demonstrated that it is possible to develop mechanisms to facilitate disaster response; however, to date, this convention has only been ratified by the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay. Therefore, experience shows achieving the third objective—to extend the mandates for identification, planning, and training to protect cultural properties, such as those found under the 1954 Hague Convention, to disaster response, peacekeeping and stability operations—would have to be crafted with feasibility in mind.

Additionally, the Treaty for the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments (the Roerich Pact) helps understanding of how it is possible to develop mechanisms to facilitate response to natural and non-natural disasters within the Inter-American System or sub-regional entities. The Roerich Pact was signed by 21 member states of the Pan American Union in 1935. "The Roerich Pact and the Military," explaining the Roerich Pact and its context among other CPP mechanisms, is available here.

One entity with the mandate to facilitate development of international law is the Inter-American Juridical Committee (IAJC).  The Secretariat for the IAJC is the Department of International Law (DIL), with their website here

The Declaration of Panama regarding DIL's mandate of development of international law in the Americas is provided below. Currently, two members of the Inter-American Juridical Committee (IAJC) are working a CPP initiative proposal for consideration for both the next IAJC session in March 2011 and the upcoming OAS juridical affairs considerations leading up to the OAS General Assembly in June 2011. This initiative began as an effort to develop a mechanism in international law for the OAS to facilitate response to natural and non-natural disaster and the issue of CPP fits into this concept. Within the OAS, other entities also have mandates in areas related to culture, disaster response and peacekeeping.  In late November, both the Office of Education and Culture and the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) began investigating how the CPP initiatives could contribute to meeting their goals and objectives.

In the Americas, there have been 27 national delegations consulted on development of the CPP mechanism and none have reacted in any negative manner. Some are actively supporting initiative activities with Chile being a leader delegating coordination from diplomatic levels down to internal national entities such as the National Monuments Council and the Directorate of Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Work with national delegations will continue, but currently, most emphasis has shifted to multinational and non-governmental organizations.

In addition, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (ICRC) International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles (IDRL) program seeks to reduce human vulnerability by promoting legal preparedness for disasters.  After reviewing the proposed concept to apply cultural property protection protocols to disaster situations, the ICRC’s IDRL coordinator requested an expanded version of the CPP initiatives paper for publication by the ICRC as a concept paper. The Haitian national delegation to the OAS is participating in order to better tailor the paper to reflect actual application examples. Currently, important disaster response guidance such as the IDRL Guidelines and the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, do not include reference to cultural property protection concepts.

Initiative IV: Interaction in Training and Technologies

Many public and private organizations have training and technological capabilities that could facilitate development of CPP programs. For example, Dr. Laurie Rush was the lead military archaeologist working with U.S. Central Command and many other DoD entities to develop CPP programs. Dr. Rush currently is in Rome to develop CPP doctrine and train with the NATO Defense College, and has agreed to provide the results to interested countries.

The International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL) in Sanremo, Italy, conducted a Cultural Property Workshop in mid-December 2010.  The IIHL workshop included a block featuring CPP programs during natural disaster. The seminar discussed the role civil society and non-governmental organizations can play in assisting the protection and restoration of cultural property threatened by natural and man-made disasters.  This effort will be used in CPP initiative considerations.

Other work in progress includes the development of websites for planning and training.  The Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, Dr. Rush, and others have developed websites for cultural heritage training and planning for Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  Several officials involved have indicated support for development of similar sites for the Caribbean countries if agreements can be reached. 

For another example that applies to the region, the U.S. National Park Service's National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT, http://www.ncptt.nps.gov/) has accomplished new developments in preservation technology as part of efforts associated with Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, and others in recent years, as well as their response to the BP oil spill, and has expressed interest in investigating areas where NCPTT might be able to contribute.

Other avenues for facilitating development of training and technological capacities for CPP continue to be investigated. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and some of its committees have been evaluating means of supporting the proposed CPP initiatives. The president of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM/ICOMOS) has offered to provide the points of contact for national representatives in the Americas in order to facilitate interaction with military and equivalent officials tasked with implementing CPP programs. Therefore, if governmental authorities tasked with CPP program implementation can be networked with experts such as those in ICOMOS, improved capacities should be achievable. 

In a related event, the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping (PEP), are working with United Nations officials, to test and facilitate development of the new Protection of Civilians (POC) training modules developed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and Department of Field Support (DFS). During the mid-December test of the POC training modules, UN DPKO officials and the training developer considered CPP protocols and are looking at inclusion due to many factors, as well as further consideration of the CPP initiatives and implications for DPKO and DFS operations.

The CPP initiatives and concepts also are being disseminated through formal presentations. For example, there will be presentations at the upcoming Archaeological Institute of America/American Philological Association Joint Annual Meeting in January and the Disaster Response and Recovery Summit in March (http://www.investmentsummits.com/summit/drrs/index.htm). In Guatemala, Colonel Roman de Leon has begun contacting both national and regional organizations to promote the CPP initiatives and will brief the Guatemalan Course on High Strategic Studies in January. 

Initiative V: Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage

The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield and the Smithsonian Institution are working on the Haiti Cultural Recovery Project.  This project includes determining how to do future emergency response operations for cultural heritage and the Smithsonian's role in the U.S. implementation of the Hague Convention. One concept being considered is the Hague Convention as it applies to intangible cultural properties. This involves methods of identifying intangible property sites and preventing compromises that could both detract from the intangible cultural properties as well as inhibit economic and other means of recovery. The findings from these efforts will be analyzed for application in the CPP mechanisms in development.

Initiative VI.  International Efforts on Cultural Heritage

ICOMOS, ICAHM/ICOMOS, the International Committee on Risk Preparedness (ICORP/ICOMOS), the Institute for Archaeologists (IFA), and SRI Foundation are developing an international working meeting to address cultural heritage resources at risk from military action. Difficulties in CPP issues related to some Caribbean and Latin America states were identified and the CPP initiatives are included in planning.

Another approach is including CPP into programs that will affect both awareness and compliance, such as the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers.

Although cultural property protection is only implied under human rights and humanitarian law references, the officials overseeing development provided assurances that cultural heritage and property issues will be included under the Implementation Guides that will “set out in great detail what concrete steps and practices must be carried out in order for private security practitioners to be in compliance with the Code.” On November 9, the Code was signed by over 50 parties.  Therefore, the drafting of the Implementation Guides will begin and the development officials have requested specific procedures/wording to address cultural property concerns. 

Initiative VII: Regional Organizations with Related Mandates

A major impetus involves regional disaster response organizations’ evaluation of CPP application to their programs. Alongside the OAS’ Joint Working Group of the Permanent Council and CEPCIDI on Existing Mechanisms for Disaster Prevention and Response and Humanitarian Assistance in December, officials representing the following organizations favorably received information on the CPP initiatives and requested submission for implementation consideration: Andean Committee for Disaster Prevention and Response (CAPRADE), Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Center for Coordination of Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC), Specialized Meeting on Social and Natural Disaster Risk Reduction, Civil Defense, Civil Protection, and Humanitarian Assistance (REHU), Summit of Latin American and the Caribbean Integration and Development (CALC), and Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). Some of these officials indicated intent to link in other organizations as part of their actions. Other possibilities exist, which include development of mechanisms at sub-regional levels. Therefore, because of the many factors involved in this area and its recent occurrence, I will refrain from further comment.

Similar to the OAS' Department of International Law, the Military Legal Committee of the Americas’ (COJUMA) mandate calls for development of international law products for military officials with a focus on the tactical and operational levels. Prior to 2010, their most recent product was a Guide for Commanders during Natural Disasters, and in late October 2010 COJUMA finalized and approved a Model Curriculum for Military Lawyers that includes direction for CPP training.

The Human Rights Initiative (HRI) is a regional process through which participating military forces develop human rights policies, doctrine, and training that complement actions in cultural property protection. Over 30 countries in the Americas have engaged in HRI activities. The Center for Human Rights Training (CECADH), San Jose, Costa Rica, serves as Executive Secretariat to support and advance HRI. The next HRI Conference is scheduled for February 2011 in El Salvador, and CPP as related to both human rights and humanitarian law has been nominated for inclusion. Therefore, the HRI provides two means to facilitate CPP: through interaction at the HRI Conference if approved and through further participation in the Human Rights Initiative to facilitate human rights and humanitarian law programs, improving the environment for CPP compliance.

In October 2010, the System of Cooperation among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA) conducted its first international live disaster response exercise with 16 countries participating. As SICOFAA evaluates lessons learned to update processes and procedures, the Secretariat will review the CPP initiatives for possible application. The Conference of American Armies and other regional organizations are working disaster response protocols; these organizations can be similarly engaged on the proposed CPP initiatives. 

As mentioned, there are other actions under way, but the above comments describe the main initiatives involved.  Please contact the author with any suggestions, questions, or other information that you might have:

Michael F. Welch
International Military Cultural Resources Working Group
c/o 2600 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20441-0002
Tel: 202-939-7567
Email: DCCuRNexus@gmail.com

About the Author

Michael F. Welch is an active duty Air Force colonel and is currently an elected officer and advisor in the Organization of American States.  He also has held positions overseeing diverse operations and advising senior leadership in Mexico, South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and NATO.  His education includes a B.A. from Univ. of Maine, an M.S. from Univ. of Southern California, and an M.A. from Univ. of Alabama.  The views reflected in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect those of Culture and Conflict Review or the United States Air Force.

Reference Documents

These reference documents are not a comprehensive list, but focus on disaster response and the International Humanitarian Law side of cultural property protection. There also is the aspect of International Human Rights Law, particularly the rights of indigenous peoples to consider.

Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.  The Hague, 14 May 1954 (1954 Hague Convention):  http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/400.

Protocol for the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.  The Hague, 14 May 1954: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/410?OpenDocument.

Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.  The Hague, 26 March 1999: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/590?OpenDocument.

Akwé: Kon Guidelines for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites on lands and waters traditionally occupied and used by indigenous and local communities: http://www.cbd.int/doc/publications/akwe-brochure-en.pdf.

Inter-American Convention to Facilitate Disaster Assistance:   http://www.oas.org/juridico/english/treaties/a-54.html.

International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles program (IDRL): http://www.ifrc.org/what/disasters/idrl/resources/guidelines.asp.

Declaration of Panamaon the Inter-American Contribution to the Development and Codification of International Law: www.oas.org/dil/AG-RES_12_XXVI-0-96_eng_declaration_of_panama.pdf.

Declaration on Security in the Americas: http://www.oas.org/documents/eng/DeclaracionSecurity_102803.asp.

Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters: http://www.unisdr.org/wcdr/intergover/official-doc/L-docs/Hyogo-framework-for-action-english.pdf.

The 2006 Hague Blue Shield Accord: http://archive.ifla.org/VI/4/admin/icbs-accord28-09-2006.htm.

Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments (Roerich Pact). Washington, 15 April 1935: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/INTRO/325?OpenDocument.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/drip.html.

Organization of American States General Assembly Resolution: AG/RES. 2575 (XL-O/10) Promotion of and Respect for International Humanitarian Law.  The entire document is focused on the issue of international humanitarian law, but in particular:

·         Para. 2. "To urge those member states that have not yet done so to consider becoming parties to the following treaties, among others

o         The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Time of Armed Conflict (Hague Convention, 1954), and its Protocols of 1954 and 1999, respectively; ...

·         Para. 3. To invite the member states to disseminate as widely as possible the rules and principles of international humanitarian law, in particular by incorporating them into military doctrine and manuals, so that armed forces will have the means and mechanisms necessary for their effective application, and by making use of the pertinent media so that such law may be familiar to the civilian population.

·         Para. 9. To encourage member states to ensure the adoption of the necessary measures and mechanisms to protect cultural property from the effects of armed conflict, in accordance with the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two protocols and other international obligations, and in particular to give consideration to the adoption of preventive measures related to the preparation of inventories, the planning of emergency measures, the appointment of competent authorities, and the enactment of laws to ensure respect for such property.

·          Para. 19. To invite member states to continue to support the work of national committees or commissions responsible for the implementation and dissemination of international humanitarian law; and to urge any state without such a body to consider establishing one, as a means of preventing conflicts and strengthening international humanitarian law.

Declaration of Banff, VIII Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas. Its significant items include:

·         Para. 5. Strengthen defense and security co-operation among the States of the Americas, in particular the smaller States

·         Para. 10. Preparation to participate in peacekeeping operations

·         Para. 16. Adopting and implementing policies that promote human rights and international humanitarian law


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