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UNESCO-UNIDROIT Model Provisions on State Ownership of Undiscovered Cultural Objects

The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to Its Countries of Origin or Its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation and the UNIDROIT Governing Council and their respective Secretariats work together to protect cultural property.  Such cooperation and coordination is of particular importance for the protection of archaeological objects. 

In response to a growing need to standardise the definition of State ownership of those cultural objects yet undiscovered, the UNESCO and UNIDROIT Secretariats convened a group of experts and endowed them with a mandate to draft a text that would appropriately address the subject. The resultant Model Provisions and their explanatory guidelines are made available to the relevant domestic bodies and legislatures to help them establish and recognise State ownership of undiscovered cultural objects. 

The Model Provisions were designed to be brief, approachable and intelligible.  As such, the six provisions carefully articulate the legal status, as applicable to the respective acceding national legislations, of undiscovered cultural property as well as the methods by which it is enforced domestically and internationally, alike.  The principle of inalienability is extended to all cultural property, both discovered and not, through authorised excavation and otherwise. 

As a resource and tool, the Model Provisions are intended to serve as a complement to the work of the organs responsible for their commission and the relevant partners and associates.  They are aimed at facilitating the application of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention.  Each State is encouraged to implement the Model Provisions for a standardised understanding of State ownership of cultural property and better focused effort at its protection. It is noted, however, that the Model Provisions do not constitute a binding legal instrument. 

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