United Nations Committee promoting the return of cultural property to their countries of origin meets for three days in Paris

The Parthenon Marbles will be among the cultural treasures under discussion this week as a United Nations committee promoting the return of cultural property to their countries of origin meets for three days in Paris.

Specifically, the Committee will consider the ongoing negotiations between Greece and the United Kingdom concerning the Parthenon Marbles, between Turkey and Germany on the Sphinx of Bogusköy, and the recent return of the Makonde Mask by a private Swiss museum to Tanzania.

The committee will also continue the study it launched last year on alternative means of conflict resolution concerning cultural property, and discuss the creation of a database of successful restitution cases.
The future database is intended to demonstrate the diverse types of restitution claims and arrangements possible, as well as the wide range of cultural objects and States involved.

Its members will also work on the elaboration of model rules aimed at helping States define their ownership of cultural property – particularly undiscovered archaeological objects – and will discuss a set of consolidated draft rules of procedure on mediation and conciliation.

The committee is known formally as the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation, and it was set up within the context of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

As part of its work during this session, the Committee’s secretariat has invited key representatives of the global art market – Christie’s, Sotheby’s, SNA, CINOA and SYMEV – to present their role in ensuring ethical and legal practices.

In addition, UNESCO’s partner institutions – the International Council of Museums, INTERPOL, World Customs Organization, UNIDROIT, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Carabinieri (Italy) and l'Office Central de lutte contre le trafic des Biens Culturels (France) – will report on their most recent activities in the protection of cultural heritage.

Established in 1978, the Intergovernmental Committee is responsible for facilitating bilateral negotiations for the restitution or return of cultural property to its countries of origin – and promoting such restitution.