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UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws

In 2003, UNESCO devised an international solution to combat the illicit traffic of cultural property: the UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws.

By compiling on the Internet the national laws of its Member States, UNESCO offers all stakeholders involved (Governments, customs officials, art dealers, organizations, lawyers, buyers and so forth) a complete and easily accessible source of information. In the event of a legal question about the origin of an object (which may have been stolen, pillaged, or illegally exported, imported or acquired), it is useful to have rapid access to the relevant national laws.

The UNESCO Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws allows the following to be consulted:

  • national laws currently in force related to the protection of the cultural heritage in general
  • import/export certificates for cultural property (available on request)
  • official or unofficial translations of national laws and certificates
  • contact details for the national authorities responsible for the protection of the cultural heritage
  • addresses of the official national websites dedicated to the protection of the cultural heritage

The database offers access to national legislation relating to the cultural heritage in general, in other words the laws on the following main categories of heritage

1. Cultural heritage:

  • tangible cultural heritage: immovable (monuments, archaeological sites), movable (paintings, coins, archaeological objects), underwater (shipwrecks, underwater cities)
  • intangible cultural heritage: oral traditions, performing arts, rituals

2. Natural heritage: natural sites, physical, biological or geological formations

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