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Protecting culture in times of conflict

Ministers’ release: 18 October 2013

Protecting cultural heritage during armed conflict helps create the conditions for peace,” Minister for the Arts Culture and Heritage Christopher Finlayson said in Paris today.

Minister Finlayson with Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.

Mr Finlayson was at the headquarters of the UN’s Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO), where he formally deposited New Zealand’s treaty documents to join the Protocols to the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Culture in the event of Armed Conflict.

“The treaty was established in the aftermath of the massive destruction of culture and heritage during the Second World War, but it’s as relevant now as it was then,” Mr Finlayson said. “In the military intervention in Mali this year, protection of that country’s cultural treasures was a high priority. We even saw protection of culture built in to a UN peacekeeping mandate.”

Minister Finlayson handing over the instruments at UNESCO with Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.

The Convention’s Trust Fund provides help for countries to develop training materials and signage so that key sites can be protected during a conflict. New Zealand has announced a donation of $10,000 to this fund. New Zealand has developed training materials so military personnel on peacekeeping missions know their responsibilities.

New Zealand is campaigning for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2015-2016.

“We need to respond to the key security issues that concern UN member states,” Mr Finlayson said. “Protection of culture and heritage is important to all countries and particularly those in conflict areas”.

“New Zealand is an independent, fair-minded, principled and constructive small state, and we are ready to play our part.”

Updated on 7th October 2019