The Museums Association's response to CMS Committee Inquiry Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

1. The Museums Association is pleased to respond to the Committee's inquiry on the Draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill (the "Bill") specifically on (i) the overall aim of the draft Bill; and (ii) whether the Bill is structured and drafted in a way which enables those aims to be met.

2. The Museums Association (MA) is an independent membership organisation representing museums and galleries in the UK and people who work for them. The Association has over 5,000 individual members and 600 institutional members.

These institutional members encompass around 1500 museums in the UK ranging from the largest government-funded national museums to small volunteer-run charitable trust museums. Formed in 1889, it is a charity, receiving no regular government funding, which seeks to inform, represent and develop museums and people who work for them in order that they may provide a better service to society.

3. The Museums Association responded to HM Government's 2005 public consultation on the 1954 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (the "Hague Convention") and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999; and it is pleased that some of the issues the MA raised at that point have been addressed in the draft Bill.

4. The Museums Association is also represented on the UKNC for UNESCO Culture Committee Conventions Working Group and has contributed to and supports the UKNC response.

Aims of the Draft Bill

5. The Museums Association welcomes the draft Bill and is in support of the draft Bill and its overall aim. The MA believes that the draft Bill is adequate to fulfil its stated purpose of allowing the UK to ratify the 1954 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (the "Hague Convention") and its two Protocols.

6. The MA believes that the Hague Convention and its Protocols provide important protection for the UK's cultural heritage, including museums.

Implementation


7. The MA strongly believes that the Hague Convention cannot be effectively implemented without adequate resourcing; consultation with all stakeholders, training, advice and support are all critical to successful implementation.

8. Disaster planning, guidelines and procedures for natural disasters and other emergencies already exist for museums, it seems sensible to link natural disaster preparations with that for armed conflict. It is also essential to look beyond cultural institutions and incorporate wider stakeholders such as local authority emergency planners and the police.

9. We strongly feel that the matter of selection of assets for protection needs more in depth discussion. There needs to be more meaningful consultation with the sectors involved in order for implementation to be successful; this should be driven by a body that understands the issues and has the ability to deal with this issue swiftly but comprehensively.

10. The MA is particularly concerned that the relevant devolved administrations and their appropriate cultural bodies are included in the consultation process.

11. The MA also reinforces the need for a coordinated information and training programme for the armed forces so that they can make informed decisions about their actions in conflicts in or near cultural assets.

Further Observations


12. The MA believes that this is a welcome and important step for the UK towards ratification of the Hague Convention and its Protocols. We also see the Bill as a positive signal to other nations regarding how the UK views the respect and protection of cultural property. This is, we feel, a timely and important message to give to the international community.