Monday, 11 June 2012

US-Peru Cultural Property MOU Extended

Over in the US, the State Department has announced that the MOU with Peru has been extended. Hooray, eh? So in theory for another few more years US customs will be looking at what Peruvian dugups come into the country and US collectors and dealers will have to be more careful about doing and keeping the paperwork than they normally are. 

The continent of America covers 8.3% of the Earth's total surface area (28.4% of its land area) and contain about 13.5% of the human population (about 900 million people). There are 35 sovereign states in the Americas, 23 in North and central America and 12 in South America. Most of them are states parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, many of them have cultural property exposed to looting and theft. But the Unites States of America has only signed"CCPIA" MOUs with seven of them  Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, and in the process of deciding on one with Belize, while that with Canada has lapsed (no more looting and theft going on there then?).

That leaves 80% of the countries closest to the USA and its voracious market totally unprotected by the CCPIA.

That leaves unprotected much of the area with sites producing Olmec, Aztek and Maya artefacts, and all those Mexican grave goods much sought after by US collectors of "funny pots' and "grotesque idols".  

What kind of "implementation" is that? It is worth recalling that the MOUs are "temporary" which hardly reflects the permanent scale of the threat offered by today's EXPANDING internet-connected antiquities market. The 1980s legislation of the US was written in a different world. 

See my old post:  'Antiquities Dealer Edward Owens: South American Antiquities for Sale'for a summary of just one collection, note where the objects are coming from and the mention of artefact types on the ICOM Red List which are NOT protected by the US' scandalously selective MOU system which obviously has a long way to go to afford any kind of effective protection in line with the principles established by the 1970 Convention to which it became a somewhat diffident state party.  It surely is time to put actions behind their fine words - or get out of the Convention.


Anonymous said...

The US and Mexico have had a cultural property protection treaty in place since 1970. It exists outside of the more familiar (and newer) MOU processes that you are referring to. Those MOUs are simply one protection option, but other bilateral agreements and protection mechanisms do exist.

Paul Barford said...

Hi, yes, that is true, but it's not quite the same thing is it?

The MOUs imply scrutiny of imports, in the Mexican document it is the victim state that has to apply ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS, furthermore (Art. 2) the application can be decided by a committee which (unless I am mistaken does not actually exist in any stable form - in being a protohistoric form of the CPAC).

Its worth noting the convergence of some of the wording with the UNESCO Convention (Art 7ii for example) signed several months later...

But thanks for highlighting this, it has tended not to figure in more recent discussions dominated by opposition of US dealers to the MOU system.

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