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R. Kimmel presenting the project ©Ville de Genève

PROCULTHER-NET reaching beyond EU borders: a visit to Switzerland

By project PROCULTHER-NET staffPublished on

On March 22, 2023, a joint delegation from the French Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of the Armed Forces visited Geneva to learn from the experience of the Department of Culture and Digital Transition and the Fire and Rescue Service in Switzerland, share their respective approaches and find common methodologies for the protection of cultural heritage at risk.


How does Switzerland protect its cultural heritage?

Author: Romain Kimmel, Foreign Policy Officer at French Ministry of Interior – DGSCGC and PROCULTHER-NET Focal Point

The purpose of the mission was for France and Switzerland to share good practices, actions, tools and measures undertaken to protect cultural heritage in the event of an emergency, as well as to verify possible synergies with the initiatives promoted by the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, such as the PROCULTHER-NET project. French experts were introduced to the Swiss legal corpus, namely the federal laws on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, disaster or emergency of 1966 (1) and 2015 (2), and the cultural heritage protection strategy (2009), designed to promote synergies between the administrations involved. In addition, they were introduced to the main actors belonging to the related institutional framework set up for this purpose in Switzerland, such as the Federal Commission for the Protection of Cultural Property (FCPCP), and the Protection of Cultural Assets Committee (PBC), a well-structured body responsible for risk mapping, rescue plan, prioritization of works, training, exercises, acquisition of equipment that contributes to the strengthening of the prevention, preparedness and response capacities of this Country. 

Moreover, French delegates learnt more on the missions of the Confederation and the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FSVO), i.e., advising authorities, compiling inventories, managing geographical information, coordinating protection requests, training personnel, and discovered the tasks carried out by cantons and municipalities, mainly drafting art-work inventory lists, preparation of security documents, training of personnel, evacuation of movable cultural heritage and provision of shelters for securing it.

Furthermore, the hosts shared lessons learnt and feedback from previous disasters that hit the Country, such as the Grand Théâtre fire (1951), Palais Electoral fire (1964), Victoria Hall fire (1984), Palais Wilson fire (1987), former Ecole de Chimie library fire (2008). With regard to the tools in support of the response actions, Swiss experts presented the integrated device for recording and tracking objects in extraordinary situations (Dispositif Intégré d’Enregistrement et de Suivi des Objets Sinistrés - DIESOS) - developed by the Haute École Arc in Neuchâtel - which aims to define a frame of reference for object rescue processes and the development of an application to facilitate the related operations in the field. 

The information exchanged during the visit was supplemented by an update on the actions carried out by the Foundation International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas- ALIPH (3) created in 2017 with a financial contribution of 100 million dollars from an initiative by France and the United Arab States whose headquarters are hosted by the City of Geneva. 

Finally, all parties have agreed to keep in touch in order to foster the synergies created by this exchange and, more broadly, to enhance the fruitful cooperation that exists between both countries. More recently, the collaboration and exchange have intensified further, so much so that on 22 June 2023 Mr. Romain Kimmel, Foreign Policy Officer at French Ministry of Interior - DGSCGC and PROCULTHER-NET Focal Point, was invited to present the project and to contribute to the debate on how to protect cultural property in crisis situations and across political borders at the annual meeting of the Swiss Society for the Protection of Cultural Heritage - SSPBC (Société Suisse pour la Protection des Biens Culturels). 

(1) Loi fédérale du 6 octobre 1966 sur la protection des biens culturels en cas de conflit armé 
(2) Loi fédérale du 20 juin 2014 sur la protection des biens culturels en cas de conflit armé, de catastrophe ou de situation d'urgence (LPBC) 
(3) ALIPH Foundation is an international cooperation initiative designed to meet the challenge of protecting cultural heritage in conflict and post-conflict areas. As a result of the widespread destruction of monuments, museums and heritage sites in conflict areas, the President-Director of the Louvre Museum Jean-Luc Martinez published in November 2015, at the request of the President of the French Republic, Fifty proposals to protect the cultural heritage of humanity. These included the creation of an international fund to protect heritage in situations of armed conflict. On the initiative of France and the United Arab Emirates, this idea became a reality after the international conference on heritage in danger held in Abu Dhabi in December 2016, with the creation of ALIPH in March 2017. Since then, the initiative has taken a number of other countries and private partners on board. More 


Cultural Heritage

Thematic series

Prevention and preparedness activities