Legal and Policy Issues
Edited by Christoph Beat Graber, Karolina Kuprecht and Jessica Christine Lai
Chapter 12: International trade in indigenous cultural heritage: comments from UNESCO in light of its international standard-setting instruments in the field of culture
UNESCO is well known internationally for its work in the field of cultural heritage. Indeed, as the UN organisation with a specific mandate for culture, it has elaborated a significant body of conventions in this field, which constitute the cornerstones of international heritage law. While each convention has a specific history, focus and goals, all of them are driven by UNESCO’s ethical mandate to promote culture in its diversity, through international cooperation and dialogue, based upon respect for shared values, human rights and the dignity of all cultures. The UNESCO General Conference reiterated this mandate in 2001 with the adoption of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which contains specific references to the relationship between cultural diversity and human rights. It points to human rights as guarantees for cultural diversity, affirming that the defence of cultural diversity implies ‘a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of persons belonging to minorities and those of indigenous peoples’. It continues to say that ‘[n]o one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope’.
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