As eloquently stated in the 1954 Hague Convention, "damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world." Cultural property includes a "limited range of objects that are distinguishable from the ordinary run of artifacts by their special cultural significance and/or rarity," and on a larger scale, cultural heritage can include sacred sites or other culturally important architecture.

Cultural heritage preservation engages individuals, local communities, state governments, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations, as the potential "[t]hreats to cultural property are numerous, including war, economic development, natural disasters and degradation, tourism, illicit trade, and iconoclasm." Since there has been "a tremendous, accelerating increase in interaction among all participants across state lines" in the international arena, significant consideration has been paid to how one should conceptualize the cultural heritage within any given state.