in person

The Blue Shield of UNESCO

25.04.2014 | By Natalya Davydenko

President of the Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the chairman of the Blue Shield National Committee Mykola Yakovyna answered our questions

KW: What mechanisms for the protection of cultural objects in conflict territories are there in the world?

M.Y.: In 1954, in The Hague, the USSR signed the Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The document contains a number of security procedures, instructions and clear regulations for the event of armed conflict. Its provisions provide such kind of protection as labeling the special symbol Blue Shield which has the same effect as the symbol of the Red Cross. Facilities marked with such logo cannot be used in military or similar purposes (for example, used as covers during war Ed.). They are under special control and protection of international observers.

KW: Why was there no Blue Shield national committee in Ukraine until recently?

M.Y.: Blue Shield is a relatively young organization. The initiative for creation of the Blue Shield committees was implemented in 1996, pursuant to the provisions of the Hague Convention. Unfortunately, our government, experts, public and government officials did not foresee the situation currently developing in Ukraine. All the conflicts have occurred very far from Ukraine. An atypical situation immediately developed in Ukraine. Unlike in other countries, our officials themselves would destroy the monuments. I mean destruction of some pieces from the collection of the Museum of History of Kyiv in the Ukrainian House by the riot police during the protests. The events in Kyiv forced professional community to mobilize and sign the founding protocol of the Ukrainian Blue Shield Committee on February 21. Six days later we recognized at the organizations headquarters in the Hague.

KW: What did the committee manage to do to protect the values, particularly in Crimea, over this time?

M.Y.: The committee retrieved and presented to museums and experts some values from Mezhyhirya. As to Crimea, we have empowered directors of museums and reserves in the Crimea with the authorities of our organization. Of course, the effectiveness of such security credentials, given the situation in Crimea, was quite minor. But IDs of experts from the Blue Shield guaranteed managers of museum objects the legitimate access to the territories of their own institutions in case of dismissal. At present the situation in Crimean has changed dramatically. There, in violation of all international standards and regulations, local authorities pocket the property of the people of Ukraine. Therefore, the format of our cooperation with Crimean institutions may change.

KW: What specific assistance from the UNESCO and other international organizations should we expect in the near future?

M.Y.: The Minister of Culture Yevhen Nyshchuk had a conversation with the Director General of UNESCO, during which, as far as I know, they discussed in detail all the key points of cooperation within the framework of the provisions of the Hague documents. Besides the technical assistance envisaged in a number of application protocols to the convention, there are very clear formulas for determining the list of sites taken by the organization under special protection. Cultural objects will be divided into categories, the most valuable will receive the closest supervision of experts from international institutions, especially the UNESCO. There is a procedure for creation of intermediary missions, which will take part in negotiations with the aggressor country. In such cases, a special general commissioner is appointed for protection of cultural values from countries not involved in the conflict. Our country may choose a patron country among other parties to the Hague Convention, which will act as a mediator and protector of our cultural values, will demands access to them, their inspection, etc. In the near future all such mechanisms will be set in motion.

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