Cultural Heritage without Borders was founded in 1995 as an independant Swedish non-governmental organisation to work in the spirit of the 1954 Hague Conventions for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflicts, natural catastophes, neglect, poverty or political and social conflicts.
Working with cultural heritage can help vulnerable groups recover their sense of dignity and empowerment, which in turn can increase the possibilities for reconciliation and fight against poverty.
The foundation Cultural Heritage withoutBorders (CHwB) was constituted in April 1995 as a reaction to the acute and massive aid that was needed due to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Destruction of cultural monuments was quite extensive and systematic, which made the world realise the urgent need for development assistance and protection. When a group of architects and conservation workers in Sweden gathered to protest, discussions were held to find ways to take concrete action and to suggest proposals for financing Swedish emergency aid in this area within the framework for Sida’s development co-operation.
Within this group of founding members the appropriate documents and statutes
were drawn up for a foundation whose aims were broadened to include not just urgent
action in the former Yugoslavia but also to “promote conservation of cultural property in areas ravaged by armed conflict, catastrophes or otherwise endangered as well as stimulate appropriate research.”
Because of the special importance of the 22 founding members’ involvement, professional experience and occupational positions, the Foundation could nurture from the very beginning close relations with various parts of Swedish society and cultural life. It was considered a great honour that the then president of the Swedish Red Cross, Princess Christina, wanted to stand as head of the founders, thereby clearly underscoring the sense of a common cause with humanitarian work in general. Other founders included three former Ministers of culture, two members of Parliament, head of the National Heritage Board, chairmen of both the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO and the Swedish Museums Association, presidents of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, the Archbishop of Stockholm, chairmen of the Swedish National Associations of ICOM (International Council of Museums) and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) as well as secretary generals for the Swedish Association of Architects and the Swedish World Wildlife Fund.
The foundation’s object shall be to promote the preservation of cultural property in areas beset by conflict, when there are other catastrophes or in acutely threatening situations as well as research in connection with this.
In the light of this object the foundation’s primary purpose shall be to create financial resources to make it possible to both build up information and contact activities with organisations and institutions in areas beset by conflict etc, or where there is a threat of conflict, and in collaboration with expert bodies in Sweden and internationally provide financial support and supply expert help for preservation measures in the form of education, documentation, protective measures land restoration, repair or rebuilding of cultural monuments and museum collections as well as for research concerning the preservation of cultural heritage in situations of conflict and natural disasters or comparable situations. The Foundation shall also be able in other ways to work to preserve cultural property which is in immediate need of measures.
CHwB has worked primarily in the former Yugoslavia with building restoration, museum development and experience. CHwB has today (2014) three offices in the Western Balkans; Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Pristina, Kosovo and Tirana, Albania.
Members of the board and the auditors are appointed by four public bodies and organisations, which are the Swedish National Committees of ICOM and ICOMOS, National Heritage Board and Swedish Association of Architects.