UN supports Greek resolution on return of cultural property to countries of origin

The General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted a draft resolution, brought in by Greece, for the “return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin”.

The UN General Assembly took place on on December 13.

“The said resolution, that also encompasses the return of the Parthenon marbles, was widely endorsed by all regional groups of member states, 105 of which jointly introduced the draft Resolution,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In an official announcement, the UN said: “By its terms, the Assembly calls upon all relevant bodies, agencies, funds and programs of the United Nations system to continue to address the issue of return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin and to provide appropriate support accordingly.”

According to the ministry, the resolution underlines the responsibility of States to combat illicit trafficking of cultural property during peace and war time, in light also of recent conflict in the Middle East that led to the destruction, looting, theft as well as illicit trafficking of cultural property, notably through the internet.

The ministry also noted that the resolution condemns the aforementioned illegal actions and notes the connection between trafficking of cultural property and financing of terrorism; it calls upon States to safeguard cultural property, by not only taking appropriate protection measures but also returning stolen or illicitly traded cultural property to the countries of origin.

“This is an important initiative of Greece that also led the relevant negotiations,” the ministry said.

The resolution has been consistently adopted by the General Assembly every three years, Greece having systematically introduced the draft resolution for voting to address the need to safeguard world cultural heritage.

“The international community shares a common responsibility to protect cultural property,” the Greek representative to the UN, Maria Theofi, said while introducing the draft resolution during the Assembly.

According to press reports, the voting of the resolution by the UN is considered a major step in Greece’s dispute with the United Kingdom over the issue of the Parthenon marbles. For over three decades Greece has repeatedly called on the British Museum to return the 2,500-year-old marble sculptures that once adorned the Parthenon and were removed and sold by Lord Elgin to the British Museum in 1817.