UN General Assembly urges continued action to stop illicit trafficking of cultural property
In a milestone achievement, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus the resolution entitled “Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin” at its 44th plenary meeting on 6 December 2021. The resolution was spearheaded by Greece and co-sponsored by 110 other member states. Recognizing that it affects all regions of the world, the resolution expressed deep concern about the continuing illicit trafficking in cultural property as well as the loss and vandalism of cultural property from archeological and other sites, in particular in areas of armed conflict.
The resolution welcomes the report of the Secretary-General submitted in cooperation with the Director General of UNESCO, while at the same time recalling all UNESCO’s seven cultural Conventions and other important international agreements related to return and restitution of cultural property. It also recalls Security Council resolution 1483 (2003), in particular the paragraph relating to the restitution of the cultural property of Iraq, and Council resolution 2056 (2012) on the situation in Mali.
Furthermore, the resolution recognizes the leading role of UNESCO in the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property and commends UNESCO and the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) on the work they have accomplished to address the issue. Of particular note were the various UNESCO international awareness-raising and training campaigns, as well as activities implemented in the framework of the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Convention, including the launch of the first edition of the International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property and the launch of the international communication campaign “The Real Price of Art”.
The resolution calls upon all United Nations entities and other relevant intergovernmental organizations within their mandates to work in coordination with the UNESCO and in cooperation with Member States, to continue to address the issue of return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin. It also requests the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the Director General of UNESCO, to submit to the General Assembly at its 79th session a report on the implementation of the present resolution.
During the adoption, Member States reemphasized the prominent role of UNESCO in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property and encouraged UNESCO to continue to strengthen its efforts on returning or restitution of cultural objects to the countries of origin.