December 16, 2017

Statement by Ms. Monica Pachoumi – Cultural Property – 9 December 2015

Item 10 – Return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin

United Nations General Assembly

Thank you Mr. President.

On behalf of my delegation, I wish to express Cyprus’ appreciation for today’s discussion. My country supports and co-sponsors the resolution proposed under agenda item 10, to be adopted today. 

We wish to thank the main sponsor of resolution A/70/L.28 for organizing informals in an open and transparent manner. We welcome the updates to the resolution that reflect important initiatives and developments in the area of this agenda item.

Such updates include paragraph 9C of the Doha Declaration, adopted on 19 April 2015, during the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the leading role of UNESCO in combating trafficking in cultural property and its role on education and awareness-raising. They also include the International Guidelines on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Responses with respect to trafficking in cultural property and other related offences and the operational guidelines for the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Of equal importance are the updates related to the 2030 Agenda and the recent unfortunate developments with regard to the destruction and trafficking of cultural property in the Middle East and the efforts to protect it.

Mr. President,

Today, we are witnessing the rise of terrorism and violent extremism internationally, which also targets cultural heritage. The deliberate destruction and illicit trafficking of cultural property in the Middle East does not only constitute a threat to the heritage and tradition of cultural diversity of the region, but a threat against the invaluable cultural heritage of humanity. It reflects an effort to erase an important part of our history, to tamper with our collective memory and to eliminate the footprints of the human effort toward cultural development and progress.

In light of these developments, further increasing and improving international cooperation in the field of countering destruction of and trafficking in cultural property and of facilitating the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin is of paramount importance. In this framework, resolution A/70/L.28 acquires particular significance.

Mr. President,

Cyprus has its own unfortunate experience of destruction, looting and illegal smuggling of its cultural property due to foreign occupation. My country is in a constant effort to repatriate its stolen cultural treasures, many of which were illegally exported from the occupied part of Cyprus and are estimated to 60,000 objects.

The issue of protecting cultural heritage is a priority for my country. Having gained relevant experience and expertise, Cyprus also contributes and stands ready to further contribute to international and regional efforts with the aim of promoting and strengthening effective international cooperation in this area.

I thank you for your attention.