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A Discussion on Finders’ Rights and States Unwillingness to Engage

By: Katelyn Jamoul, Student Reporter

On Sunday afternoon, Representatives of Rwanda, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Samoa, Uganda, Ireland and Kenya held a press conference. During the conference each representative listed the amount of stolen artifacts the British Museum currently houses from their respective Nations which is roughly around 13,000 between the 7 Member States. Representatives passed resolution EE summarized by Representative Rilee Leckie of the Philippines: “Resolution EE focuses on recognizing the ownership of cultural property by its country of origin and carrying out return and restitution by expanding and enlarging existing UN bodies, including UNESCO, INTERPOL, and UNDP, as well as creating a fund and outreach group under UNESCO. Another important aspect of the resolution is the creation of an international database to track and record cultural property.”

During the press conference, various questions and comments revealed distinctive perspectives, some even calling out the unwillingness of the United Kingdom’s resistance to collaborate . Representative Aaron Swift of the United Kingdom responded to this critique: “The United Kingdom is prepared to work collaboratively with all member states to enhance the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. We stand ready to engage in dialogues and actions that further our shared commitment to preserving the rich tapestry of global cultural heritage for future generations”

The British Museum does extensive investigations for each request they receive.Their number one concern prioritizes safety, security and preservation for every artifact that they house. The United Kingdom has returned many artifacts despite following legislation prohibiting such acts, “The United Kingdom is wholly prepared to discuss solutions implementing preventative measures against the harm of cultural properties during armed conflicts, natural disasters and criminal acts or acts of terrorism,” said Representative Swift of The United Kingdom. A few examples of returned artifacts are the Benin Bronzes which were found to have been taken by looting and returned to Nigeria. The Holocaust Act of 2009 “which made it possible for national museums such as the V&A ‘to return certain cultural objects on grounds relating to events occurring during the Nazi era,’ which had previously been impossible due to the 1983 National Heritage Act and similar pieces of legislation.” Summarized by Granthem DuMet – Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The United Kingdom and the British museum have preserved artifacts, making them accessible to the world, spreading global cultural heritage. The United Kingdom is not unwilling to participate in the conversation but rather needs to be heard. 

*The views and opinions expressed in this article were part of a simulation of the United Nations held from 18 to 21 November 2023 and do not reflect the views and opinions of the American Model United Nations Conference, American Model United Nations International, LLC. or the governing bodies of the states mentioned in the article.

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