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Panel at the Spring Meeting of the American Bar Association — Controversies Over U.S. Implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Cultural Property

  • 15 Apr 2010
  • 2:30 AM - 3:59 AM
  • New York, NY
In 1970, the U.S. took a historic decision to support the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Property and to combat pillage of archeological sites by restricting imports of designated categories of archeological materials in situations where looting threatens the cultural patrimony of other nations. At the same time, the U.S. rejected a UNESCO proposal that would have barred international trade in all cultural property unless licensed by the country of origin. This compromise was adopted by Congress in the 1983 Act implementing the Convention. Regulations pursuant to the Convention have transformed the market. The State Department has negotiated comprehensive import controls on antiquities from major source countries, including Italy and China, and customs officials have confiscated objects not regulated under the Convention implementing legislation when claimed as state property by foreign governments. Archeologists and others in the preservationist community applaud these actions, but critics in the art museum and dealer communities believe that the State Department has disregarded the criteria established by law.

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