Last May, our country was elected to be one of the Vice-Presidents of the Bureau of the Subsidiary Committee of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, representing the Latin America and the Caribbean group (GRULAC).
As part of this committee, Peru is committed to the objectives of the international convention, including measures to prohibit and prevent the illicit import, export and transfer of cultural assets worldwide.
It is also responsible for identifying challenging situations related to the protection and return of cultural assets, in addition to sharing good practice and preparing and sending recommendations and guidelines to help implement the Convention to the Meeting of States Parties.
The committee is composed of 18 States Parties. Members are elected for a four-year term, and every two years the Meeting of States Parties renews half of its members. Peru is a member of Group III (Latin America and the Caribbean) and sits alongside Turkey, the Republic of Korea and Ivory Coast, the countries representing the other three regional groups, all of whom have been elected as Vice-Presidents of this important committee.
Part of the decision for appointing Peru is due to the fact that we are one of the most active countries in the recovery of cultural assets illegally taken from its territory. This is thanks to coordinated efforts by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, which monitor numerous objects from the pre-Inca, Inca, and colonial eras, and from the early years of the Republic. The Peruvian State relies on legal tools such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention to repatriate them.
A clear example of this is the case of Machu Picchu. The University of Yale, in the United States, retained the discoveries that American archaeologist Hiram Bingham made in his expeditions to the Inca sanctuary. The return came after a long process that lasted more than 90 years and ended with an agreement between the two parties.
What is the 1970 UNESCO Convention?
At the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, thefts from museums and archaeological sites increased, especially in countries in the South. In the North, private collectors and, on many occasions, official institutions were offered works of illicit origin.
This trade causes irreversible damage to the historical memory of a region and, with this practice, not only are physical assets lost, but also valuable information. Never again will key data be known, such as the place where such a piece was found or the context surrounding it.
That is why UNESCO created the Convention with the firm commitment to prohibit and prevent the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural assets.
The Seventh Session of the Subsidiary Committee of the Meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention was held on May 22 and 23 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Sources: Unesco/ TV Perú/ El Peruano