On 21 June, the Council of the European Union approved the Concept on Cultural Heritage in Conflicts and Crisis. By adopting it, the institute recognises that cultural heritage can play a key role in “promoting peace, democracy and sustainable development.” In essence, the EU believes that cultural heritage should be put at the heart of peacebuilding processes.
Cultural heritage can promote “tolerance, inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue and mutual understanding”, the Council states in a press release. Because cultural heritage can become a target during times of crisis and conflicts, the Council call for the protection of cultural heritage during these periods. Safeguarding heritage should be “mainstreamed into Council work”, the press release read.
Three focus points
In general, Council members believe that cultural heritage can help in crises in three ways: prevention, safeguarding and recovering. By preventing violent extremism, combatting misinformation, and generating positive and inclusive dialogues, cultural heritage can prevent that a tense situation can turn into a crisis.
The Concept document mentions that combatting the illegal trade in cultural property should help protect heritage and avoid future disputes
The (physical) protection of a heritage site can also aid in preventing or breaking down a conflict, the Concept reads. It also mentions that combatting the illegal trade in cultural property should help protect heritage and avoid future disputes. To support peacebuilding processes, cultural heritage can be restored or reconstructed. This promotes inter-cultural dialogues and long term developments.
These practical uses of cultural heritage and heritage sites are not new. However, it is a positive sign that the EU wants to focus more on safeguarding cultural heritage. It hopefully increases the chances of succesful peacebuilding processes in the future.