[Call for Participation] Asia-Pacific Regional Conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO 1970 Convention

The UNESCO Office in Bangkok is organizing a regional conference from 29 to 30 June 2021 as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Convention on Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Asia-Pacific Regional Conference will take stock of the region’s achievements to date and to collectively debate and agree upon a set of regional priorities. This conference will include a series of panels focusing on the key themes concerning the implementation of the convention, including national legislation and administrative structures, capacity-building, cross-sectoral cooperation, law enforcement, international cooperation and mechanisms, return and restitution, and engagement with partners. It will target senior officials of national and local governments across the sectors (such as culture, law enforcement, foreign affairs, trade, tourism, etc.), national and international institutions, professionals and experts, representatives of private sector and civil society, cultural leaders and other stakeholders.

At the end of the conference, the participants will agree on a list of findings, best practices and recommendations, which will be compiled in a report to be presented at the International Conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Convention, tentatively scheduled for September 2021.

The Asia-Pacific region represents one of the lowest ratification rates to the 1970 Convention (48%). The region, however, provides a fertile ground for illicit trafficking of cultural property, due to its rich cultural heritage, its emerging role in global art market, its existing of and accessibility to a number of global hubs. At the same time, the countries in the region are spending great efforts to the fight against illicit trafficking, especially in the area of return and restitution of cultural property, and their experiences can potentially present great examples for others to learn from. All challenges currently faced, good practices and lessons learned, and (sub)regional priorities merit greater regional and international attention and analysis, to raise awareness and seek broader consensus on the issue of combatting illicit trafficking.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Conference will be organized online via Zoom in English, and span over two days, which aims to achieve the following objectives:

1.    Identify key challenges in fighting illicit trafficking of cultural property in the region;

2.    Identify current obstacles to the ratification of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and 1995 UNIDROIT Convention;

3.    Exchange best practices to fight against illicit trafficking and implement the conventions :

4.    Promote stronger sub-regional and regional cooperation in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property and in implementing the conventions.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Convention, despite the travel restriction imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO has organized several celebratory activities in close cooperation with its partners. The international conference on “Cultural Heritage and Multilateralism” has been organized in Berlin (Germany) and a global communication campaign entitled “The Real Price of Art” was launched worldwide. Regional conferences have also been organized in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa. In October 2020, the Subsidiary Committee of the UNESCO 1970 Convention, in its Decision 8.SC7, decided to extend the 50th Anniversary Celebration until 14 November 2021 due to the global public health crisis which led to the postponement of many celebration activities in 2020. It invited States Parties to submit recommendations to strengthen the implementation of the Convention based on regional priorities for the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property.

How to join the conference? 

You can join this conference by registering in advance via Zoom, the programme will be available soon on this page. For inquiries, please contact culture.bgk@unesco.org.