Getting Governments to Cooperate against Looting: Insights from the American and British Experience
In 1960, Mexico and Peru put the illicit antiquities trade on UNESCO’s agenda and appealed for an international convention to address the problem,1 marking the beginning of an intense international controversy. Archaeologically rich countries, mostly in the developing world, have attempted to stem the plunder of their archaeological sites through stringent control of the antiquities trade. By contrast, rich market countries have sought to keep that trade free, in order to enjoy its cultural and economic benefits.2 This divergence of interests has hindered the UNESCO-led regulatory efforts against plunder, as manifested in the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (hereafter the 1970 UNESCO Convention). In the view of market countries, this convention was highly undesirable: it constrained art markets and imposed a bureaucratic burden — to the benefit of foreign countries that failed to protect their archaeological heritage.3 Indeed, market countries argued that the convention unjustifiably shifted the responsibility for suppressing the illicit antiquities trade — a responsibility that, in their opinion, rested primarily with the source countries.
KeywordsSource Country British Government Cultural Object Export Control Illicit Trade
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