The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (UNESCO 1954) established the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) to protect cultural heritage by co-ordinating preventative measures to meet and respond to emergency situations, both natural and man-made. The Second Protocol to The Hague Convention (adopted in 1999, though still not in force in March 2003 as the requisite 20 states had not ratified it) meant that the ICBS had a particular and specialised role to advise the Convention’s Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. However, by 2003, neither the United States nor the United Kingdom had signed the Hague Convention. The United States subsequently ratified the Convention in 2009, but, by the end of 2011, the UK had not.
International conventions and national laws proved ineffective in preventing the looting and subsequent sale of antiquities from Iraq in 2003. The power of market forces, which place a commercial value upon such material, led to planned and opportunistic theft and resale with consequent loss of the objects’ (and the sites they came from) cultural and academic value.