Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
Parallel form(s) of name
- Convention pour la protection des biens culturels en cas de conflit armé
- Convención para la Protección de los Bienes Culturales en caso de Conflicto Armado
- Конвенция о защите культурных ценностей в случае вооруженного конфликта
- اتفاقية حماية الممتلكات الثقافية في حالة نزاع مسلح
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- 1954 Hague Convention
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
1954 - Present
The question of protecting cultural heritage from the harms of war has been grappled with since the 1500s, and by the late nineteenth century, there was a general consensus that countries should refrain from bombing buildings dedicated to art, science, and charitable purposes if they were not being used militarily. This consensus was codified in the 1907 Hague Rules, which quickly proved to be inadequate in protecting cultural property from the destruction caused by the First World War. In response, several efforts were made to create a legal norm against the destruction of cultural property in armed conflict, including in the draft list of war crimes by a 1919 sub-commission of the Commission on Responsibilities of the Preliminary Peace Conference, the Netherlands Archaeological Society’s 1919 report asserting that harm caused to monuments and works of art was a wrongdoing to humanity as a whole, the 1923 Hague Draft Air Rules calling for cultural property to be spared from bombardment, and the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments (Roerich Pact) adopted in 1935 by the Governing Board of the Pan American Union.
In 1937, the League of Nations International Commission on Intellectual Cooperation (ICIC) requested the International Organization of Museums (OIM) to continue its work on the protection of cultural property with the aim of producing a draft convention. With the help of experts, the OIM was able to produce a Preliminary Draft International Convention for the Protection of Historic Buildings and Works of Art in Times of War in 1938. However, plans to convene a diplomatic conference to adopt the draft convention were thwarted by the start of the Second World War. The OIM resorted to producing a Declaration on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Course of Armed Conflict, which lacked the compliance regime included in the draft convention. When UNESCO was established in 1946, it resumed the ICIC’s work on the protection of cultural property. Per the mandate of the 1949, UNESCO General Conference, the Director-General established a meeting of experts in 1950 to draft a convention on the protection of cultural property based on the OIM draft.
The 1954 Hague Convention was finally adopted by UNESCO along with a series of regulations and a Protocol on 14 May 1954 at the Intergovernmental Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict hosted by the Netherlands government and entered into force on 7 August 1956. The Convention outlines a series of precautionary measures State Parties are obliged to adopt in times of peace to protect everything that falls within the Convention's definition of cultural property, including monuments of architecture, art or history, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books, other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest, and scientific collections. The Convention also established the Meeting of the High Contracting Parties, a governing body composed of the State Parties, which assembles every two years to discuss and provide updates on the implementation of the Convention. Violations of the Convention in following years later led to the adoption on 26 March 1999 of the Second Protocol, which supplements the Convention with a more concrete institutional framework for its implementation.
Convention established by a diplomatic conference convened by UNESCO.
Functions, occupations and activities
State Parties to the Convention are obliged to implement the following measures:
- Adopt preventive measures such as preparing inventories, planning emergency measures to protect property against the risk of fire or the collapse of buildings, and preparing the removal of cultural property to places of safety.
- Develop initiatives which guarantee respect for cultural property situated on their own territory or on the territory of other States Parties. This involves refraining from using such property in any manner that might expose it to destruction or deterioration in the event of armed conflict, and by refraining from all acts of hostility directed against it.
- Register cultural property of very high importance on the International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection in order to obtain special protection for such property;
- Mark certain important buildings and monuments with a distinctive emblem of the Convention;
- Provide a place for eventual refuge to shelter movable cultural property;
- Establish special units within the military forces responsible for the protection of cultural property;
- Set sanctions for breaches of the Convention; and,
- Promote the Convention among the general public and through target groups such as cultural heritage professionals, and military or law-enforcement agencies.
Mandates/sources of authority
The 1954 Hague Convention was adopted in the Final Act of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Access points area
Subject access points
Place access points
Authority record identifier
Rules and/or conventions used
Level of detail
Dates of creation, revision and deletion
Created by Hazel Koh, 27 July 2023.
Boylan, P. 1993. Review of the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict: the Hague Convention of 1954. Paris, UNESCO. Available online in UNESDOC: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000100159.
Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 17th. 2022. Report of the Secretariat on its activities. Paris, UNESCO. Available online in UNESDOC: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000383981.
Intergovernmental Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. 1961. Records of the Conference convened by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization held at the Hague from 21 April to 14 May 1954. The Hague, UNESCO. Available online in UNESDOC: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000371936.
Nafziger, J. A. R., Kirkwood Paterson, R and Dundes Renteln, A. 2010. Protection of cultural heritage in preparation for, during, and after armed conflict. Cultural Law: International, Comparative, and Indigenous. New York, Cambridge University Press, pp. 349-351.
O’ Keefe, R. 2006. The Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
14th Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to The Hague Convention. Available at: https://en.unesco.org/14th-meeting-of-the-high-contracting-parties-to-the-hague-convention---Working%20Documents (Accessed: 18 July 2023).
1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Available at: https://en.unesco.org/protecting-heritage/convention-and-protocols/1954-convention (Accessed: 18 July 2023).