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UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970

14 November 1970 – Paris, France

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The 1970 convention addresses the need to have a legal instrument to continue the international fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property

Theft, looting and illicit trafficking of cultural property is a crime. It deprives people of their history and culture, it weakens social cohesion in the long term. It fuels organized crime and contributes to the financing of terrorism. This Convention provides the means to combat the movement of cultural property and also mechanisms for its restitution.

This #Convention was

🚦    Adopted by UNESCO

🖊    Signed by the UK

🗳    Passed as UK law

🗝    Ratified

The UK ratified the 1970 Convention in 2002, which was one of the principal recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Illicit Trade which was appointed in 2000. The Convention is now celebrating its 50th of preventing the illegal trade of cultural property.

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“By signing this agreement, we are sending a strong warning to those who do so much damage to the world’s cultural heritage that the UK is serious about joining the international effort to stamp out illicit trade in cultural objects. It will also help us claim back objects unlawfully removed from the UK”

Baroness Blackstone, Arts Minister, 2001 – 2003

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📣   The #Convention summarised

In the years preceding 1970, the trade of illegal trade of cultural property was prevalent amongst other illegal items and concern was related to the growth of the international black market during this time.

Under the 1970 Convention, cultural property is under protection. Meaning States such as the UK benefit from an added layer of security for their movable cultural heritage.

Under the terms of the Convention the cultural property includes anything of scientific, historical, artistic and or religiously significant, as define by Article I. Importantly, every State Party to the 1970 Convention is able to define its own cultural property, so long as it is an item of importance and within the categories in Article .

The Convention recommends the enforcement of the protection of moveable cultural property through three main principles:

Prevention is given a central role, which is essential to the fight against illicit trafficking. The convention recommends a variety of methods of prevention; the establishment of inventories, creation of export certificates, application of controls and licensing of traders, education, and the enforcement of criminal or administrative sanctions against those who perpetrate crimes in this area.

Restitution is provided before in Articles 7 and 14 of the Convention, which state that any cultural property stolen and imported should be seized and measures made for its return. The convention recommends that this action takes place at the national level.

The third principle of the convention is the strengthening of international cooperation between States Parties. Given that the illicit traffic of cultural property is an international activity, it requires the coordination of all states to effectively combat.

In totality, the Convention provides the framework for the protection and safe return of illegally traded or stolen cultural property in all of its member states. In order to maintain the fight against illicit trafficking, States are required to provide National Reports on the implementation of the convention in their own country.

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THE CONVENTION IN THE UK

Discover the UK’s involvement with the #Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970

The 1970 Convention sets out a minimum level of respect which all States Parties must observe, both in relation to their own national heritage as well as the heritage of other States Parties. The UK meets these objectives through government policy and other organisations.

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