Ancient Olympia Recommendation (2013)

The 3rd International Conference on the Return of Cultural Property, Athens and Ancient Olympia, Greece, 23-26 Oct., 2013.
The 3rd International Conference on the Return of Cultural Property, Athens and Ancient Olympia, Greece, 23-26 Oct., 2013.

Preface: The Ancient Olympia Recommendation (2013) was adopted by the 3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property, Athens and Ancient Olympia, Greece, 23-26 Oct., 2013.

The Conference, which was organized by the General Secretary of Culture of the Hellenic Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports, is held as a follow-up to the Second International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property, held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 16-17 October 2012.

The Conference held from Wednesday 23 until Saturday 26 October 2013. The opening ceremony, as well as the procedures of the first day accommodated in the auditorium of the Acropolis Museum, while the rest sessions from Thursday 24 to Saturday, October 26, taken place in Ancient Olympia (SPAP Conference Center).

The conference program was divided into two main areas:

  • Restitution of cultural goods to their countries of origin
  • Prevention of illicit traffic of cultural goods

More specifically, the main issues were discussed include:

  • Standardization of procedures for the restitution and return of cultural goods
  • Assessment of international and national legislation
  • Protection of Cultural Heritage in periods of crisis
  • Exchange of experience and know-how through the development of constructive dialogue regarding the prohibition of illegal trade of cultural goods
  • Establishment of guidelines for the cooperation between countries and auction houses
  • Awareness raising
  • E-commerce
  • Use of New technologies for recording and digitization of cultural assets and creating databases

The conference gathered many invited speakers from 18 different countries and international organizations such as UNESCO and INTERPOL. They are scientists, university professors and representatives from governments and organizations with recognized validity, years of experience and plenty of relevant publications to their credit, regarding the themes of the Conference.

Moreover, the first day at the Acropolis Museum, there were special lectures, which presented the positions of the Greek side and of those who advocate the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

Mediation and Conciliation

The Elgin Marbles, also known pars pro toto as the Parthenon Marbles, are a collection of Classical Greek marble sculptures made under the supervision of the architect and sculptor Phidias and his assistants. They were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.  After gaining its independence from the Ottoman Empire, Greece began a series of projects to restore its monuments, and has expressed its disapproval of Elgin’s removal of the Marbles from the Acropolis and the Parthenon, which is regarded as one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments. Greece disputes the subsequent purchase of the Marbles by the British Government and urges the return of the marbles to Greece for their unification. In 2014, UNESCO offered to mediate between Greece and the United Kingdom in resolving the dispute of the Elgin Marbles, although this was later turned down by the British Museum as UNESCO works with government bodies, not trustees of museums.

The States, Parties or not to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property may utilize for appropriate intervention the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to Its Countries of Origin or Its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation created in 1978.

Within the framework of strategies designed and implemented to facilitate the work of the Committee and to enhance the process of restitution of cultural objects, particularly in the context of dispute resolution linked to cultural heritage, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted at its 33rd session a resolution that explicitly articulates the mediatory and conciliatory functions of the Committee.

With the approval of the General Conference to modify the Committee Statute, a subcommittee was created and tasked with discussion of a draft text.  At its 16th session in September 2010, the Committee reviewed and adopted the resultant Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Conciliation.

Only UNESCO Member States and Associate Members may defer to the elaborated procedures for mediation and conciliation, but States may represent the interests of public or private institutions located in their territories, as well as those of their nationals.  Every two years, each State is invited to nominate and submit to the Secretariat the names of two individuals who may serve as mediators and conciliators. Their qualification is contingent on their competency and mastery in matters of restitution, resolution dispute and other specific characteristics of the protection of cultural property.

The Rules of Procedure are conceived under the general principles of equity, impartiality and good faith, which are intended to promote harmonious and fair resolution for disputes concerning the restitution of cultural property.  As such, the text provides for confidential communication in relevant political, diplomatic, juridical and financial matters between the mediators and conciliators and each party.

The Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Conciliation are meant to be complementary to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee.  Moreover, their provisions may not interfere, slow, prevent or otherwise threaten other procedural and legislative means.  It is noted that the text adopted by the Intergovernmental Committee represents a legal tool that does not constitute a binding normative obligation.

Resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly about Return and Restitution of Cultural Property

UNESCO is concerned with the issue of Return or Restitution of Cultural Property to the Country of Origin. The United Nations General Assembly is also involved in this field. Indeed, since 1972, many resolutions on the Protection and the Return of Cultural Property, as part of the Preservation and Further Development of Cultural Values, have been adopted.

  • Resolution 3026 A (XXVII) of 18 December 1972
  • Resolution 3148 (XXVIII) of 14 December 1973
  • Resolution 3187 (XXVIII) of 18 December 1973
  • Resolution 3391 (XXX) of 19 November 1975
  • Resolution 31/40 of 30 November 1976
  • Resolution 32/18 of 11 Novembrer 1977
  • Resolution 33/50 of 14 December 1978
  • Resolution 34/64 of 29 November 1979
  • Resolutions 35/127 and 35/128 of 11 December 1980
  • Resolution 36/64 of 27 November 1981
  • Resolution 38/34 of 25 November 1983
  • Resolution 40/19 of 21 November 1985
  • Resolution 42/7 of 22 October 1987
  • Resolution 44/18 of 6 November 1989
  • Resolution 46/10 of 22 October 1991
  • Resolution 48/15 of 2 November 1993
  • Resolution 50/56 of 11 December 1995
  • Resolution 52/24 of 25 November 1997
  • Resolution 54/190 of 17 December 1999
  • Resolution 56/97 of 14 December 2001
  • Resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 by the Security Council of the UN concerning Iraq
  • Resolution 58/17 of 3 December 2003
  • Resolution 61/52 of 4 December 2006
  • Resolution 64/78 of 7 December 2009
  • Resolution A.67/L.34 of 5 December 2012
  • Resolution A/RES/70/76 of 9 December 2015




23-26 Oct., 2013.


The 3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property, Athens and Ancient Olympia, Greece, 23-26 Oct., 2013.





Intellectual Property


About Sunney 116 Articles
I am currently a Professor of Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou, China.

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