At the end of the 1960 and in the beginning of the 1970s, thefts were increasing both in museums and at archaeological sites, particularly in the countries of the South. In the North, private collectors and, sometimes, official institutions, were increasingly offered objects that had been fraudulently imported or were of unidentified origin.
It is in this context, and to address such situations, the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was created in 1970.
The 1970 Convention requires its States Parties to take action in these main fields:
- Preventive measures:
Inventories, export certificates, monitoring trade, imposition of penal or administrative sanctions, educational campaigns, etc.
- Restitution provisions:
Per Article 7 (b) (ii) of the Convention, States Parties undertake, at the request of the State Party "of origin", to take appropriate steps to recover and return any such cultural property imported after the entry into force of this Convention in both States concerned, provided, however, that the requesting State shall pay just compensation to an innocent purchaser or to a person who has valid title to that property. More indirectly and subject to domestic legislation, Article 13 of the Convention also provides provisions on restitution and cooperation.
- International cooperation framework:
The idea of strengthening cooperation among and between States Parties is present throughout the Convention. In cases where cultural patrimony is in jeopardy from pillage, Article 9 provides a possibility for more specific undertakings such as a call for import and export controls.