Mediation and Conciliation

The States, Parties or not to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property may utilise for appropriate intervention the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to Its Countries of Origin or Its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation created in 1978.

Within the framework of strategies designed and implemented to facilitate the work of the Committee and to enhance the process of restitution of cultural objects, particularly in the context of dispute resolution linked to cultural heritage, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted at its 33rd session a resolution that explicitly articulates the mediatory and conciliatory functions of the Committee. 

With the approval of the General Conference to modify the Committee Statute, a subcommittee was created and tasked with discussion of a draft text.  At its 16th session in September 2010, the Committee reviewed and adopted the resultant Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Conciliation.

Only UNESCO Member States and Associate Members may defer to the elaborated procedures for mediation and conciliation, but States may represent the interests of public or private institutions located in their territories, as well as those of their nationals.  Every two years, each State is invited to nominate and submit to the Secretariat the names of two individuals who may serve as mediators and conciliators. Their qualification is contingent on their competency and mastery in matters of restitution, resolution dispute and other specific characteristics of the protection of cultural property.  

The Rules of Procedure are conceived under the general principles of equity, impartiality and good faith, which are intended to promote harmonious and fair resolution for disputes concerning the restitution of cultural property.  As such, the text provides for confidential communication in relevant political, diplomatic, juridical and financial matters between the mediators and conciliators and each party. 

The Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Conciliation are meant to be complementary to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee.  Moreover, their provisions may not interfere, slow, prevent or otherwise threaten other procedural and legislative means.  It is noted that the text adopted by the Intergovernmental Committee represents a legal tool that does not constitute a binding normative obligation.

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