Port Vila Declaration on the Fight against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property

The Melanesian Workshop on the Fight against the Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property was held at the Vanuatu Culture Centre (VCC) in Port Vila from 5 to 7 August 2015 in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Vanuatu.

The Workshop brought together five Melanesian countries and territory (Fiji, New Caledonia/France, PNG, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu) together with participants from Australia and New Zealand, representatives of UNESCO, International Police Organization (INTERPOL), Pacific Islands Museums Association (PIMA), Oceania Customs Organization Secretariat (OCOS), Pacific Heritage Hub (PHH) at the University of the South Pacific (USP), and Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat in order to address issues surrounding the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property in the Melanesian region and to increase countries’ ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970).

The Workshop provided the participants from museum, cultural institutions and customs and police services with opportunities to learn the legal and administrative measures to fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property through multi-stakeholder discussions. The Workshop identified specific challenges facing the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that included, among others, ocean border control, communal ownership of cultural heritage, cultural infrastructure development, awareness of visitors and expatriate community, and resource constraints. The Workshop emphasized the importance of documentation and inventorying of cultural heritage with community participation. The need for the preparation of a national legislation or aligning the existing legislation with the provisions of the 1970 Convention was also highlighted.

On the last day of the Workshop, each participating country prepared a draft action plan to identify priority actions based on what they had learned from the country report and experts presentations. The Workshop concluded in endorsing a Port Vila Declaration that paves a way for the enhanced cooperation in this area in partnership with regional mechanisms such as the MSG Council of arts and Culture and the MSG Ministers of Culture and Arts.

Port Vila Declaration

Preamble

Recognizing the Agreement Establishing the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the MSG Leaders’ Summit decision in Auki, Solomon Islands in July 1994 to respect, protect and safeguard Melanesian customs, cultures, traditions and values;

Recognizing the signed MSG Leaders’ Framework Treaty of May 2013 on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Culture; and

Recalling the decisions of MSG Ministers of Arts and Culture in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in October 2013 on the implementation of the UNESCO Conventions;

We, the participants in the Workshop on the Fight against the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property in Melanesia organized by the Vanuatu Culture Centre (VCC) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), representing museums, cultural institutions, customs and police of 5 countries and territories in Melanesia (Fiji, New Caledonia/France, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu) together with participants from Australia and New Zealand, representatives of UNESCO, International Police Organization (INTERPOL), Pacific Islands Museums Association (PIMA), Oceania Customs Organization Secretariat (OCOS), Pacific Heritage Hub (PHH) at the University of the South Pacific (USP), Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat met in Port Vila from 5th to 7th August 2015 and are committed to the following:

To constitute a network among museums, customs and police services for an improved collaboration in the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property through exchange of information, expertise and best practices.

To advise our respective national authorities to adapt their legislation in accord with international standards in order to better protect our cultural heritage objects against thefts, looting, illicit import and export and to recover them if they have been illegally exported.

To organize national workshops aiming at improving collaboration between various stake holders, based on their draft national action plans prepared during this Workshop. These national workshops will address the following issues:

–          Establish inventories, lists and photographs and other recording technology of important cultural properties, based on the “Object ID”.

–          Develop activities of capacity-building for museums, customs, and police and biosecurity officers.

–          Develop awareness among prosecutors and judicial officers about the significance of dealing appropriately with cultural property offences.

–          Develop educational activities in order to promote the respect for cultural heritage especially among young people and children.

–          Undertake awareness raising campaigns among local communities who are the custodians of important cultural properties.

–          Develop awareness raising materials targeting visitors and temporary expatriate residents on the issues surrounding illicit trafficking of cultural property.

–          Prepare regulations applicable to dealers in art and antiquities.

–          Review the security of collections, museums, as well as archaeological sites, whether they are terrestrial or underwater.

To lodge a copy of the existing national legislation on the protection of movable cultural heritage to the UNESCO Secretariat for inclusion in the Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws.

To recommend our respective Governments to join the relevant international Conventions:

–          Without delay the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

–          The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

–          The 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

To seek cooperation from UNESCO, INTERPOL, OCOS, PIMA, ICOM, ICOMOS and PHH/USP for the achievement of these commitments.

To call on our respective Governments to report to the MSG Council of Arts and Culture and to the MSG Ministers of Culture and Arts on the implementation of the Port Vila Declaration.

Port Vila, Vanuatu, 7th August 2015

Source