Cultural heritage

There is a growing recognition that attacks against the cultural heritage of a people constitute a form of attack against the people itself. The protection of cultural heritage – often of irreplaceable historical or religious artifacts – thus contributes to the protection of their dignity and identity of a group. Long protected by IHL, the link to humanitarian action is not yet well-developed, and cultural heritage is a likely area of programmatic expansion.

Abandoned tank standing in front of ruined mosque

Photo: Christiaan Triebert

Key actors

Responsible for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, allocating financial assistance to State Parties, as well as inscribing property on the World Heritage List

Working on the protection of cultural heritage from threats such as armed conflict and natural disasters

Key references

Answers to common question regarding the definition of cultural property and its protection in armed conflict

Study on cultural heritage and armed non-State armed groups, including the applicable international law, and reasons why some groups are willing to respect cultural heritage and others are not

Article on the applicable law in the protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage in armed conflict, such as international humanitarian law, the UNESCO cultural heritage conventions, and human rights treaties

Learning resources

Briefing providing an introduction to the current legal frameworks that protect cultural heritage during both international and non-international armed conflicts, and how they apply to state actors and non-state armed groups

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