Restitution of artefacts conserved by foreign institutions


Considering the problem of illicit export of cultural property from Afghanistan and the destruction of cultural heritage by the Taliban, UNESCO has supported various associations working to safeguard certain artefacts at the request of the Afghan authorities. The artefacts temporarily stored by these associations were listed and inventoried and notified to ICOM, on the understanding that the objects would be returned to Afghanistan when the situation allows.

The Afghan authorities are now requesting the return of some of these artefacts, UNESCO supporting it in principle when the security conditions and appropriate storage and transport are ensured. UNESCO has recently supported the return of artefacts from the “Afghanistan Museum in Exile” in Switzerland in March 2007 and continues to contribute to the coordination of the return between the different parties concerned, such as in the case of the objects stored by the Hirayama Foundation in Japan, or those confiscated by the British authorities while being illegally imported into Great Britain, eventually returned to Afghanistan in May 2009.

In July 2012, 843 artifacts were returned to Afghanistan almost 20 years after they were stolen or smuggled abroad. And in 2016, 102 objects from Japan were returned to Afghanistan after the decades. UNESCO is still in cooperation with ICOM Australia and Vienna, and Harvard University for the future restitution of Afghan artefacts abroad.

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