evidence of the achievements of the human race and as a
source of information and education, the world's cultural
heritage must be preserved and transferred to future generations.
our cultural heritage is threatened every day; the pillage
of archaeological sites and the theft of objects from museums
are increasing on an unprecedented scale. Now, no country
is free from this danger.
may protect themselves against theft and plunder by adopting
the ICOM Code
of Ethics for Museums, by putting into place
a systematic inventory of collections and by improving security
norms. At present, we would like to emphasise the importance
of international legal instruments such as the 1970
UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing
the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of
Cultural Property and the UNIDROIT
Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects
adopted in Rome on June 29, 1995.
1970 UNESCO Convention declares as illegal the import, export
or transfer of ownership of cultural property. By ratifying
this Convention, each State Party undertakes to adopt the
a) to prevent museums within their territories from acquiring
cultural property which has been illegally exported;
b) to prohibit the import of cultural property stolen from
a museum or a public
institution after the entry into force of the Convention;
c) at the request of the State of origin, to recover and
return any such cultural property stolen and imported.
UNESCO Convention of 1970 has no retroactive effect; it
only enters into effect on the day of its official ratification.
UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural
Objects is a complement to the UNESCO Convention. Perhaps
the most important clause in the Convention is the principle
that anyone with a stolen item in his/her possession must
in all cases restore it. This rule forces buyers to check
that the goods have come onto the market legally, otherwise
they will have to be returned.
UNESCO Convention of 1970 and the UNIDROIT Convention enable
the preservation of cultural heritage and consequently the
memory of humankind. They are a potent weapon in the fight
against illicit traffic. Thus ICOM urges its National Committees
to encourage their governments to ratify these Conventions.
more information on the UNESCO Convention contact :
Division des objets culturels et du patrimoine immatériel
Section des musées et des objets culturels
Division of Cultural Objects and Intangible Heritage
Section of Museums and Cultural Objects
Tel. +33 (0)1 45 68 44 04
1, rue Miollis
75732 Paris Cedex 15
more information on the UNIDROIT contact :
Ms. Marina Schneider
Via Panisperna 28
Tel: (+39) 06 69 62 11
Fax : (+39) 06 69 94 13 94