The concept of cultural heritage is not new, and its importance goes way beyond protecting cultural sites. The efforts of historians, philologists, archaeologists, ethnographers, and antiquarians resulted in the creation of great libraries and museums, and the establishment of nations. These people are the ones whose efforts led to the creation of the modern world. In this article, we will examine the value of cultural heritage in our day-to-day lives.
In addition to exploitation of materials and objects for profit, cultural heritage is also threatened by conflict, social persecution, and armed conflict. In the context of the Middle East, for example, historical manuscripts were destroyed in Timbuktu, and ISIS looted ancient treasures in Palmyra and elsewhere. In other countries, such as the United States, warring parties have destroyed underwater cultural assets, including shipwrecks and monuments.
A key issue in protecting cultural heritage is ensuring the restitution of stolen and lost objects. These objects are the property of humankind, and their restitution is a matter of international security. Although protecting cultural objects does not ensure that warring nations will stop stealing and destroying them, it can be the difference between peaceful coexistence and conflict. By protecting these objects, we can ensure that future generations can benefit from the knowledge they contain.
Inalienable cultural property, such as a historic building or archaeological site, is not subject to free trade. Instead, the state must cooperate in the recovery of these objects. Article 7 of the 1970 Convention stipulates that these objects must be returned if they have been documented in a public institution’s inventory. Therefore, if the object is removed from a public institution, its owner will be liable for its destruction. In this case, the government should return it to the community as soon as possible.
The 1970 UNESCO Convention aims to curtail illegal trade in cultural objects by prohibiting their export and preservation in situ. However, the Convention fails to resolve title issues that arise in relation to cultural objects. The contesting parties may be communities, States, or private individuals. Because of this, more countries are adopting soft law to’mend’ these gaps. UNESCO continues to explore the need for new laws to protect cultural objects.
Despite the fact that we are living in an increasingly globalized world, the threats to cultural heritage are global. While they may seem like a threat to the future of our planet, cultural genocide is a significant concern. This type of genocide is not only systematic, but it can cause immense damage to an individual’s wellbeing. A cultural genocide can result in a culture’s destruction and erasure. So, when a nation seeks to protect its cultural heritage, they have to consider all of these factors.
Moreover, cultural genocide can serve as a lens to view the protection of cultural heritage. Likewise, a discussion of cultural genocide can include indigenous cultures and the protection of these cultures. By using a global framework for the protection of cultural heritage, the dialogue between Western and Southern governments could be more inclusive and richer. In turn, it could lead to more sustainable results. If the focus on cultural heritage is on protecting the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples, the discussion about cultural genocide will be more inclusive and the conversation about cultural genocide could become a more robust and inclusive one.