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50 Years After the 1970 UNESCO Convention, The Work Continues

January 21, 2020

Dr. Neil Brodie presents on EU Regulation 2019/880

2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, providing an opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of its implementation.

AIA Annual Meeting: The Future of the 1970 UNESCO Convention

That was the focus of a workshop at the Archaeological Institute of America’s Annual Meeting, held from January 2-5 in Washington, D.C. On January 4th, scholars and experts convened to discuss Antiquities, Illicit Trafficking, and Public Advocacy: The Future of the 1970 UNESCO Convention. The workshop also honored the work of Dr. Patty Gerstenblith, recipient of the AIA 2020 Outstanding Public Service Award.

Dr. Patty Gerstenblith presents on the past, present, and future of the 1970 convention


Key Takeaways:

  • MOUs are on the rise– The United States implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention through the U.S. Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CCPIA). Under the CCPIA, the United States can enter into bilateral agreements or memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with other foreign governments that are signatories to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. These agreements close U.S. borders to illicit cultural property while promoting positive cultural exchange. Speakers at the workshop were encouraged by the growing number of cultural MOUs with the United States.
  • EU regulations protect cultural objects but could be improved– The recent EU Regulation 2019/880 serves as a different example of how UNESCO 1970 has been implemented. The regulation subjects cultural objects to uniform import controls throughout the EU, and moreover, prohibits “the introduction of [those] removed from the territory of the country where they were created or discovered in breach of the laws and regulations of that country.” However, experts at the workshop warned that there are gaps in the regulation, particularly regarding the importation of coins.
  • There is a gap in the protection of cultural property in Israel– Israel, a country that is not a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, represents a gap in the efforts to restrict the import of illicit cultural property from the MENA region.