Cultural Property (Armed Conflict) Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Peter Stone, UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace, Newcastle University (CPB 12)

1 The Newcastle UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace (CPP&P)

1.1 Newcastle University is the only University in the world to host a UNESCO Chair in CPP&P. The creation of a UNESCO Chair follows a long process of vetting an application from a University, first by the UNESCO National Commission and then by UNESCO in Paris. All Chairs are linked to a particular academic who is "a renowned specialist" in one of the "key priority areas related to UNESCO’s fields of competence" and "the network and Chairs serve as think tanks and as bridge builders between academia, civil society, local communities, research and policy-making".

1.2 The main area of activity for the Newcastle Chair is the better protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict (usually referred to as CPP). I was appointed to this post in January 2016 for an initial period of four years (renewable on review). Before this appointment I had worked in CPP since 2003 when I was the archaeological advisor to the UK’s MOD prior to, and immediately following, the invasion of Iraq. I have remained active in the field ever since and my UNESCO Chair, supported by numerous international heritage and military organisations, is testimony to my standing in the field.

1.3 As UNESCO Chair I have been advising civil servants and Ministers at DCMS on the generalities of CPP and in the particulars of the Cultural Protection (Armed Conflicts) Bill and on the development and use of the Cultural Protection Fund.

2.0 The Bill

2.1 General points: I have had near-annual contacts with DCMS Ministers since 2003 trying, in particular, to encourage a number of governments to pass legislation to enable the UK to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and both its Protocols. I gave oral and written evidence to the Commons Select Committee that scrutinised an earlier version of this Bill in 2008 and coordinated written evidence from 13 Heritage organisations to the Iraq Inquiry encouraging the Inquiry to recommend ratification. I worked with Professor Roger O’Keeke of UCL Law School to develop a revised draft Bill, that took into account all issues raised in 2008, that was submitted to DCMS in summer 2015, soon after the June 2015 announcement that the UK was finally going to pass legislation to enable us to ratify. It is fair to say that this current Bill is largely based on Roger O’Keefe’s work. You can therefore imagine my pleasure to see a Bill working its way through Parliament that will finally allow the UK to ratify the Convention and both its Protocols.

2.2 Since the Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech I have worked closely with civil servants, a number of Peers, and a lesser number of MPs, to help the smooth passage of the Bill through Parliament.

2.3 Specific issues: The Bill is about as tight and useful as it can be. (I use this caveat as it would be helpful to make changes to the Bill if it had the ability to actually modify the 1954 Convention: it obviously cannot and therefore it is as useful as it can possibly be.) I would not want to see any amendments accepted at this stage and urge the Committee to act decisively and quickly to enable the quick passing of a very good, and long overdue, Bill. In particular I would strongly support Professor O’Keefe’s submitted note on potential changes to Clause 17 and would strongly advise that no changes to Clause 17 be made.

2.4 One final point: The passage of the Bill will enable the UK to, with luck, become the first of the Permanent 5 Members of the UN Security Council to have ratified the Convention and both its Protocols. This, taken with the creation of the Cultural Protection Fund, makes the UK an international leader in CPP. The opportunity remains for the UK to grasp the role of being the international leader by funding a small, permanent office for the Blue Shield – the, currently unfunded, international NGO, frequently referred to as "the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross", that acts as Advisory Body to UNESCO in matters concerning CPP. CPP does not happen in a vacuum, and the Government has an opportunity, using a small grant that would attract match-funding, to create a sustainable, critically useful, internationally-relevant, legacy.

Professor Peter G Stone, Newcastle University

November 2016

 

Prepared 16th November 2016