UNESCO offers its good offices to seek solution for question of Parthenon MarblesParis – Differences between Greece and the United Kingdom over the Parthenon Marbles kept at the British Museum and between Germany and Turkey over the Bogazkoy Sphinx currently in a museum in Berlin top the agenda of a meeting, March 25 – 28 at Headquarters, of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation.
The body comprising representatives of 22 Member States* who are elected for four-year terms, meets every two years to consider cases brought to its attention. During its 12th session, representatives will also discuss principles recently formulated to facilitate the solution of differences over cultural properties displaced during World War II, as well as progress made towards identifying and preserving properties illegally taken out of Afghanistan, so that they can be returned.
The Committee will also consider preventive measures to limit illicit trafficking in cultural properties. One important measure concerns the introduction of inventory forms to standardize the description of art objects and antiquities internationally (standard Object-ID). Setting up databases which will include information about UNESCO Member States’ national legislation on cultural property, will also be discussed.
The Committee will be welcoming the fact that since it last met in March 2001, six countries have become States Parties to the 1970 Convention concerning the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property: Albania, Barbados, Bhutan, Japan, Rwanda and the United Kingdom. This brings to 97 the number of States Parties. Denmark, Morocco, Sweden and Switzerland have announced they will ratify the Convention or are in the process of doing so.
The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects has also gained five new States Parties (Argentina, Cambodia, Norway, Portugal and Spain), raising its total to 18. This convention, which covers private law, complements the UNESCO convention.
The UNESCO Committee, set up in 1980, has no jurisdictional power to rule in disputes between parties. But, as a consultative organ, it can offer its good offices to facilitate bilateral negotiations for the restitution or return of cultural properties to their countries of origin. It also encourages the establishing or strengthening of museums in developing countries and the training of scientific and technical staff. (see www.unesco.org/culture/legalprotection).
* This year, it includes Angola, Barbados, Cameroon, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Korea, Lebanon, Pakistan, Peru, Tanzania, Tunisia and Turkey.
Journalists wishing to report on the Committee’s work should contact UNESCO’s Press Service for accreditation, tel: +33 (0)1 45 68 17 47