Thursday, May 28, 2015

Time to Rewrite the 1970 UNESCO Convention???

Archaeology-centric blogger Paul Barford made this provocative (but uninformed) statement at the end of a recent post to his notorious blog:

"OK, UNESCO, time to rewrite that 1960-ish document the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property."

Changes to the text of the adopted 1970 UNESCO Convention are not allowed, except through the agency of a revising Convention adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This in effect would become a new Convention, and "Any such revision shall, however, bind only the States which shall become Parties to the revising convention." Article 25, part 1.

In other words, no signatures or instruments approving or acceding to the original Convention would be valid as approval of or accession to the revised Convention.

UNESCO did, in fact, collaborate in "rewriting" this document in the process of preparation of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, which is now a "dead letter," having failed to secure accession from any nation having a major art and/or antiquities trade, other than Italy. 

This observer would be pleased should UNESCO decide to follow Mr. Barford's suggestion. It would be extremely interesting to see how much real-world political support there is for his anticollecting notions. Should a revising Convention follow them, it would be very surprising if the USA signed or acceded to that document, given the flagrant abuses resulting from the existing Convention.

It is quite possible that the firestorm of controversy that would culminate in the defeat of efforts to secure US approval of or accession to such a revised Convention would eventually lead to revocation of, or modifications to, the deposited US instrument of accession to the existing Convention.



Blogger John H said...

Perhaps the time is ripe to reassess UNESCO in its entirety, given the heritage and other scandals left in its wake. UNESCO is I believe the FIFA of the international heritage circus.

John Howland

3:18 AM  

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