CHAC CONCEPT

Facing a new situation

The kind of objects we today identify as "Cultural Heritage" have played a role in armed conflicts since the dawn of warfare. However, the fate and role of cultural heritage in the conflicts of the 21st Century differ profoundly from previous times. We simply face a new situation.

The rise of cultural heritage to an issue of international peace and security stands on a number of mutually reinforcing developments, including: 

  • new norms, laws and institutions related to cultural heritage

  • a rapidly growing worldwide focus on cultural heritage and identity

  • the rise of identity politics as a driver of armed conflict

  • the rise of transnational security communities

  • the urbanisation of conflict

  • the rise of hybrid warfare

  • the rise of social media

  • the maturing of a transnational market for illicit antiquities, enabling armed groups and terrorists to make an income out of looting and trafficking antiquities.

Altogether, the challenges related to cultural heritage and armed conflicts have grown increasingly complex. They range from preservation to anti-terrorism. 

Odds on...

...the next larger terrorist attack will target a place that holds a symbolic and cultural value that may be described in terms of cultural heritage. 

...ongoing and future conflicts will involve places, sites or constructions that hold a symbolic and cultural value that may be described in terms of cultural heritage. 

... illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts will continue to play a role in conflict economies and drive looting and thus the destruction of archeological sites.

Managing the challenges

The new situation calls for cross-sectorial and cross-functional responses, which can be hard to establish. 

Key challenges include:

  • Different administrative and political cultures in relevant state authorities, including ministries of justice, defense, and culture.

  • Different professional cultures in the relevant sectors, including defense, culture, and justice sectors.

  • Difficulties with adopting cross-functional approaches across operational branches and functions.

  • Difficulties with aligning and establishing cooperation between state and non-state actors, including subject matter experts.

  • A general lack of accurate pictures of the actual challenges.

CHAC works with academics, NGOs, museums, and practitioners in states and international organisations to develop conceptual and practical solutions to these challenges.

UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, addressing the United Nations Security Council in connection with their adoption of Resolution 2347 (24 March 2017). @UNESCO

UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, addressing the United Nations Security Council in connection with their adoption of Resolution 2347 (24 March 2017). @UNESCO

 

'The unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, and the looting and smuggling of cultural property in the event of armed conflicts, notably by terrorist groups, and the attempt to deny historical roots and cultural diversity in this context can fuel and exacerbate conflict and hamper post-conflict national reconciliation, thereby undermining the security, stability, governance, social, economic and cultural development of affected States.'

United Nations Security Council, Resolution 2347 (2017)

Russian sappers clearing mines at Palmyra, 2016.  @GETTY

Russian sappers clearing mines at Palmyra, 2016. @GETTY

Google Earth Image of the archeological site of Apamea, Syria in 2012, after it was looted.

Google Earth Image of the archeological site of Apamea, Syria in 2012, after it was looted.

NATO KFOR Checkpoint at the Decani Monastery in Kosovo, 2017.

NATO KFOR Checkpoint at the Decani Monastery in Kosovo, 2017.