UNESCO consults art market stakeholders on International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property

On 17 and 25 January 2022, UNESCO organized an online dialogue with the art market sector on the International Code of Ethics for Dealers in Cultural Property, as this important tool in the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property undergoes revision. This consultation is essential as the success of this instrument depends ultimately on the voluntary adherence of diverse art market stakeholders.

More than twenty dealers in cultural property, professional associations, art market representatives, auction houses, antique dealers, antiquarian booksellers and online sales platform representatives as well as UNESCO’s key partners, UNIDROIT, INTERPOL and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) participated to the consultation. The meeting was also attended by more than twenty delegates and experts from Member States.

Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, introduced the meeting by stating: ‘‘It is an opportunity for representatives of the art market to share with UNESCO the ethical principles of their profession and exchange good practices. Naturally, UNESCO is committed to making a clear and public distinction between the legal trade of cultural property and the illegal activities of traffickers. UNESCO values the importance of implicating art market representatives as its role is essential to promote the 1970 Convention by pushing for better acquisition policies and insisting on strict ethical rules.”

Participants welcomed this open and productive dialogue. UNESCO is currently revising the Code of Ethics at the request of its Member States and of the States Parties to the 1970 Convention, with a dual objective: to respond to the challenges that have emerged since its adoption in 1999 and to clarify the principles that govern the art market. In this context, in June 2021, an online questionnaire was sent to art market stakeholders and UNESCO Member States in order to gain a better understanding of the current practices of traders and dealers.

In March 2022, the results of this consultation will be presented to the working group established at the 22nd session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) mandated to reflect on the revisions to the Code of Ethics.


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