Fight against illicit traffic of cultural property

Although the illicit trafic of cultural goods cannot be scaled through concrete figures, it is part, in financial terms, of the main criminal activities in the world, at the same level of the illicit weapons' and drugs' trade. 

According to Interpol, the illicit trade in cultural objects is sustained by the demand from the arts market, the opening of borders, the improvement in transport systems and the political instability of certain countries.

In order to better fight such a phenomenon, UNESCO and its partners elaborated the following normative instruments:

  • UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970)
  • UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995)

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

UNESCO encourages member States to protect cultural objects by strengthening their national legislation regarding cultural heritage protection.

  • It requires also member States to take appropriate steps to recover and return, at the request of the State Party "of origin", any such cultural property imported or stolen after the entry into force of the Convention.

    

UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995)

The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention is a complementary instrument to the 1970 Convention and focuses on the recovery phase.

States commit to a uniform treatment for restitution of stolen or illegally exported cultural objects and allow restitution claims to be processed directly through national courts.

Moreover, the UNIDROIT Convention covers all stolen cultural objects, not just inventoried and declared ones, and stipulates that all cultural property must be returned.

  

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