UN agency offers to help Greece UK in dispute over Parthenon Marbles

That dispute, along with another between Germany and Turkey over the Bogazkoy Sphinx currently in a Berlin museum, tops the agenda of a meeting that gets underway tomorrow at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris of the agency’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation.The Committee comprises 22 countries and meets every two years to consider cases brought to its attention. During its 12th session, representatives will discuss principles recently formulated to facilitate the solution of differences over cultural properties displaced during World War II, as well as progress made towards identifying and preserving properties illegally taken out of Afghanistan, so that they can be returned.The Committee will also consider preventive measures to limit illicit trafficking in cultural properties, with one important measure concerning the introduction of inventory forms to standardize the description of art objects and antiquities. Setting up databases which will include information about UNESCO Member States’ national legislation on cultural property, will also be discussed.Since the Committee last met in March 2001, Albania, Barbados, Bhutan, Japan, Rwanda and the United Kingdom have become States Parties to the 1970 Convention concerning the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, brining to 97 the number of States Parties. Denmark, Morocco, Sweden and Switzerland have announced they will ratify the Convention or are in the process of doing so.Meanwhile, Argentina, Cambodia, Norway, Portugal and Spain have ratified the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, raising its total to 18. This convention, which covers private law, complements the UNESCO treaty.The UNESCO Committee, set up in 1980, has no jurisdictional power to rule in disputes between parties. But as a consultative organ, it can offer its good offices to facilitate bilateral negotiations for the restitution or return of cultural properties to their countries of origin. It also encourages the establishing or strengthening of museums in developing countries and the training of scientific and technical staff. read more