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Why should cultural heritage be protected?

When we look at the first regulations on the protection of cultural property in the international arena, it is seen that they are related to the damage to cultural property in war and armed conflict. The regulations of the Hague Convention No. 4 of 1907 on the law of war, customary rules and customs prohibit attacks on buildings used for religious, educational, artistic, scientific or charitable purposes, historical monuments and hospitals. According to this regulation, the purpose of protecting cultural heritage and other places of civil character, such as schools or hospitals, is similar. However, given the developments in the field of cultural heritage after 1950, the understanding that cultural heritage should be protected not only because of its artistic or scientific value, but also because it is the “common heritage of mankind”. In the preamble of the Hague Convention (UNESCO, 1954), which regulates the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, it is stated that “Since every nation has contributed something of itself to the world culture, any encroachment on the cultural heritage of any nation shall be deemed to be an encroachment on the cultural heritage of all mankind”. The preamble to the World Heritage Convention recognizes that “the deterioration or destruction of any part of the cultural and natural heritage constitutes a detrimental impoverishment of the heritage of all the nations of the world”, that “parts of the cultural and natural heritage are of exceptional importance and should therefore be preserved as part of the world heritage of all mankind” and that “participation in the protection of the cultural and natural heritage is the duty of the entire international community”. The Council of Europe also adopts a common heritage approach in its documents on culture and cultural heritage. The 2001 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity recognizes cultural heritage as a source of creativity and states that “cultural heritage in all its forms must be preserved, enriched and expanded, and handed down to future generations as a record of human experience and aspirations, so that creativity in all its diversity may be stimulated and an effective dialogue between cultures may be felt”.

The protection of cultural heritage is of the same level of importance as other important shared values, such as environmental protection or human rights.

The 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage explains that intangible cultural heritage, passed down from generation to generation, “is continuously recreated by communities and groups in their interaction with their environment, nature and history, giving them a sense of identity and continuity, thus contributing to respect for cultural diversity and human creativity”. On the other hand, the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro Convention), which the Council of Europe incorporated into its legislation in 2005, defines cultural heritage as “both a resource for human development, enhancing cultural diversity and promoting intercultural dialogue, and part of a model of economic development based on the principle of sustainable use of resources”. The Faro Convention also considers cultural heritage within the scope of human rights and interprets it as an individual right. According to the Convention, everyone has the right to enjoy and contribute to the enrichment of cultural heritage (Article 4) and this right is inherent in the “right to participate in cultural life” defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Consequently, the function of cultural heritage has changed over time, and it has evolved from being merely an asset of historical and artistic value subject to scientific study to an element that constitutes the cultural identity of communities and individuals. In short, the protection of cultural heritage as a common value is of the same importance as other important common values such as environmental protection or human rights.