First intergovernmental meeting to elaborate declaration of principles relating to cultural objects displaced in connection with Second World WarCultural objects displaced as a consequence of the Second World War often make headlines. Sometimes the news is a voluntary restitution to the rightful owners, but more often it is complicated litigation, fraught with symbolism. The first intergovernmental meeting with the task of elaborating a declaration of principles relating to these objects will take place at UNESCO from 19 to 21 July (Room XII). The goal is to make significant headway in an area that is particularly sensitive from the historical, socio-cultural, political and legal points of view.
While there are several multilateral treaties that deal with the restitution of cultural property (the 1954 Hague Protocol, the UNESCO 1970 and the UNIDROIT 1995 Conventions), they date from after the end of the Second World War and are not applicable retroactively.
The issues surrounding cultural objects displaced in connection with the Second World War were first tackled by UNESCO during the tenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation. Then, in 2000 and 2002, meetings of independent experts produced a series of principles that were examined by UNESCO’s General Conference in October 2005.
The 19 to 21 July intergovernmental meeting is the next step in this process. It aims to begin drafting a declaration of principles related to these objects, which will be presented to UNESCO’s General Conference in 2007.
The principles are meant to provide general guidelines for use in bilateral or multilateral negotiations between States, in order to facilitate the signing of restitution accords for such objects, and to lay the foundation for any future jurisprudence in this domain.
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