At its 44th plenary meeting on 6 December 2021, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution titled “Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin” proposed by Greece and supported by an unprecedented 111 countries, without a vote. Such Resolution recognises that no region of the world remains unaffected by illicit traffic in cultural objects and that unprecedented attacks are being carried out against cultural property in the Middle East and elsewhere.
It reaffirms the importance of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, together with other international conventions, and invites Member States that have not already done so to consider becoming parties to those conventions that specifically address the return and restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin. The Resolution also acknowledges the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention with several activities among which an international conference to assess its significance, distinctive features and operational aspects and in particular its interaction with others instruments and tools to facilitate return and restitution of cultural property.
The Resolution expresses deep concern at the continuing illicit trafficking in cultural property and the loss and vandalism of cultural property from archaeological and other sites, in particular in areas of armed conflict. The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention is particularly important as it specifically covers objects illegally excavated which are obviously not inventoried.
Furthermore, the Resolution also commends UNESCO for the launch of the International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property in 2020 which UNIDROIT celebrated since joining its partners.
UNIDROIT will continue, as called on by the Resolution, to provide appropriate support, within its mandate, in coordination with UNESCO and in cooperation with Member States, on the issue of return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.