The Protection of Cultural Heritage

Cultural Property Protection (CPP) within NATO

Picture1Lessons learned from the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan show that culture is a fundamental element of, and plays an essential role in, modern day conflict. The identity of a group of people is often connected to symbols that are reflected in cultural property (CP) – buildings, monuments, artefacts and documents. Destroying such symbols can shatter links to the past thus erasing an identity from (local) historical memory. Damage to and destruction of cultural heritage can undermine a community’s hope for the future.

CP can be destroyed or damaged through collateral damage; military negligence; and be attacked for the specific cultural, political or religious affiliations it displays. A lack of awareness and appropriate action on the part of an (international) military intervention affecting the value and status of certain CP can lead to a decline in goodwill from the wider international community and can have a serious negative effect on public opinion about an operation, in theatre, at home, and worldwide.


The international community has recognised the value of cultural heritage and cultural properties as (inter) national resources and for many years efforts have been made to implement legally binding guidelines for CPP. In practice these rules have had a very limited effect. Bound by international law, and in order to create a safe and secure environment, the military and especially CIMIC, must take both a support position and a proactive stand regarding CPP.

In 2015 CCOE published its first publication on Cultural Property Protection: ‘Cultural Property Protection Makes Sense: A Way to Improve Your Mission’.

The primary audience for this publication are military staff and field workers operating in the domain of Civil-Military Cooperation and Civil-Military Interaction. The publication focuses on the tactical and operational level and can be used to inform various military exercises and operations, including UN, EU and NATO missions.

The publication also aims to provide civilian organisations with an awareness and understanding of the NATO approach towards CPP.

The publication will answer the following three questions:

  1. What are CP and CPP?
  2. How can CPP improve a military mission?
  3. What are CPP tasks for armed forces, especially CIMIC, and what part should non-military experts play?

The Cultural Property Protection Makes Sense is available here or can be read directly in the viewer on the right-hand side of this webpage.