As the problem of illicit trafficking in cultural property does not arise uniformly around the world, UNESCO has developed a wide range of activities aimed not only at various targets but above all at taking into account multiple contexts.

Thus, UNESCO has developed awareness-raising initiatives targeting the general public and local communities through media tools and young people as implemented by the Secretariat to raise awareness of the value of heritage and the importance of its protection.

In addition, the 1970 Convention and its partners regularly organize capacity-building activities to raise awareness among professionals within the judiciary and law enforcement domain. Finally, many initiatives have been put in place to raise awareness among tourists and in the tourism industry.


The 1970 UNESCO Convention and the national laws transposing it are useful for the national authorities of States Parties wishing to return one or more cultural objects to another country.

The Intergovernmental Committee on Return and Restitution seeks ways and means of facilitating bilateral negotiations, promoting multilateral and bilateral cooperation for the restitution and return of cultural property, encouraging public information campaigns on this issue, and promoting exchanges of cultural property.

This intergovernmental body has an advisory role and its recommendations concern disputes between States, but are not legally binding.

Cases of restitutions and returns under the aegis of the 'Return & Restitution' Committee

In some cases, the 1970 Convention does not formally apply: either the States concerned by the cases of return or restitution have not ratified it, or one of the conditions for its application is not fulfilled (such as non-retroactivity). Other solutions are then sought so that the parties concerned can reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Even if they do not reflect a strict application of the provisions of the Convention, these solutions are often adopted in accordance with the spirit and principles of the Convention.


In addition to its diplomatic and legal actions and its roles as negotiator and mediator, the UNESCO Secretariat implements several awareness-raising and information activities.

In partnership with UNIDROIT, ICOM, INTERPOL, the WCO, UNODC, the Secretariat regularly organizes training in the form of regional or national workshops or seminars. The main objectives of these are to:

  • Develop skills in preventing and combating illicit trafficking in cultural property, but also in restoring stolen or illegally exported objects;
  • Prepare for the implementation of preventive measures in terms of inventories (whether archaeological objects or not),
  • Raise awareness of the need to adopt effective national legislation and develop international cooperation in this field,
  • Create contact at the local, national and regional levels to ensure general awareness of the dramatic consequences of the trafficking of cultural property in the impoverishment of populations.

The training activities include three elements:

  • A legal component;
  • An operational component;
  • An educational and outreach program.

The Secretariat also makes available legal and practical Instruments answering questions concerning the illicit traffic of cultural property.

Culture professionals (museum managers or curators, archaeologists, etc.), customs officials, police and national officials (Ministries of culture, tourism, the interior and foreign affairs, etc.) are invited to participate.

Regional Capacity-building and workshops

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In the framework of the partnership between UNESCO and the EU, UNESCO has developed two separate free online training courses for targeted audiences:

  1. European representatives of police forces, customs and the judiciary.
  2. European actors of the European art market (antique dealers, auction houses, gallerists, collectors), universities, experts and researchers