Defending cultural heritage is a key part of the discussion on human rights. The destruction of cultural objects is a violation of the rights of all human beings. This destruction is part of a wider scheme to assimilate people, destroy their traditions, and kill them. The destruction of cultural objects is a form of cultural engineering that is used by diverse extremist groups.
The 1970 UNESCO Convention was a step towards curbing illicit trade in cultural objects. This Convention appoints states as the exclusive right holders of national cultural heritage. It also prohibits the unauthorized export of cultural objects. However, it does not provide a clear answer to the issue of title over cultural objects.
In addition to defining national cultural heritage, the 1970 Convention also lists eleven types of cultural objects. These objects include art, archaeological objects, and archival material. Cultural objects are categorized based on the social function and heritage value of the object.
Traditionally, ownership concepts do not address the problem of title over cultural objects. This is because nationality does not provide a clear answer to the question of who has the right to access and control cultural objects. However, this issue can be addressed through the use of international cultural heritage law. This law recognizes the legal bond between cultural objects and their users. The law focuses on ensuring that cultural objects are preserved and that people have access to them.
The 1970 UNESCO Convention lists eleven types of cultural objects. These objects are: a) archaeological objects; b) archival material; c) artwork; d) ethnological objects; e) rare stamps; f) furniture; g) objects with historical value; h) objects with intangible heritage value; i) objects found within a state’s territory; and j) objects found outside a state’s territory. The 1970 Convention does not cover earlier losses, and thereby leaves some questions unanswered.
While the 1970 UNESCO Convention has been able to curb the illegal trade in cultural objects, there are still many cases where cultural objects are stolen and destroyed. In order to address this issue, states need to take measures to ensure that cultural objects are preserved and that people can access them. This includes measures such as temporary exhibitions and loans. Alternatively, cooperative solutions are also possible.
For example, the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art prescribe just solutions that include the restoration and exchange of objects. These principles are based on the idea of a national treasure, which is defined in the TFEU and the GATT. However, there is a problem with this definition because it fails to account for private losses. These losses could include artefacts that were produced for the market, and which therefore will not pass the test of a heritage title.
Similarly, while the 1970 UNESCO Convention prohibits the transfer of cultural property without free consent, it is not a clear answer to the question of who owns the artefacts. Article 13(d) allows states to designate national cultural heritage, but requires other member states to assist with the recovery of such property.