Experts discuss return of cultural property in Athens

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Lawyers, museum professionals, archaeologists, academics and cultural property experts will meet in Athens, Greece, 17-18 March for an international conference on the Return of Cultural Property to its Country of Origin, according to a UNESCO statement, made available to panapress Thursday.

The conference, organised by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with UNESCO, will be opened by the Greek Minister of Culture, Michalis Liapis, with Karolos Papoulias, President of the Hellenic Republic, the President of the General Conference of UNESCO, George Anastassopoulos, and UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Françoise Rivière, in attendance.

The participants will review their experiences on the issue of the return of cultural property, examine several successful returns, including the Axum Obelisk from Italy to Ethiopia, the return of the Stone Birds of Great Zimbabwe from Germany to Zimbabwe, the return of human remains to the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal tribe of South Australia, the “Utimut” cooperation project for the return of cultural objects from Denmark to Greenland, the reunification of a Neo-Sumerian alabaster figure (cooperation project between the Louvre Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of New York) and the case of the ceremonial mask of the Kwakwaka’wakw people of Vancouver Island between the British Museum and Canada.

The conference will also feature debates on Ethics and Law, Mediation and Cultural Diplomacy, Museums, Sites and Cultural Context and International Cooperation and Research.

Discussions will also take place on ways to strengthen the action of the Intergo vernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation.

Established by UNESCO in 1978, the Intergovernmental Committee provides a framew ork for discussion and negotiation on the return or restitution of cultural property.

The committee, composed of 22 elected member states, remains strictly advisory, establishing forums for debate and offering non-legally binding recommendations.

Proceedings from this meeting will be published and made available for the 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee, scheduled for June 2009.

The return and restitution of cultural property will also be the theme of anothe r meeting to be held in November this year in South Korea.

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