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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg March 19, 2019

On the Regulation of the International Exchange of Cultural Property

Does UNESCO want cultural objects to be treated solely as res extra commercium and assume away private actors and market transactions?

Steffen W. Groß
From the journal ORDO

Abstract

With its foundation in 1945, UNESCO declared as its main purpose the promotion of international cultural exchange[1]. A number of legal instruments (Conventions, Recommendations and Declarations) should duly help to substantiate that general purpose and make it work in practice. In this process, the regulation of the international exchange of cultural property plays a key role. However, the proper regulation of cultural property exchange has been a highly controversial issue. This paper focus on UNESCO's guiding ideas and conceptions of cultural property, international exchange and regulation. The central question is: Are the regulations codified in UNESCO’s Conventions and Recommendations helpful in encouraging international cultural exchange or are we faced, due to the neglect of private agents and the roles they play in cultural exchange, with some sort of one-sided regulation running counter to that aim? The author argues that UNESCO's legal instruments are driven by and express a strong anti-private and anti-market bias, which produce problematic economic incentives in the art and antiquities world to the disadvantage of the international exchange of cultural property.

Zusammenfassung

Seit ihrer Gründung im Jahr 1945 ist die Förderung des internationalen kulturellen Austausches das erklärte Ziel der UNESCO. Zur Einlösung der mit diesem Ziel verbundenen Ansprüche bedient sich die UNESCO einer Reihe von rechtlichen Instrumentarien wie Konventionen, Empfehlungen und Erklärungen. Ein in seiner Bedeutung wesentlicher Teil dieser Instrumente ist der Regulierung des internationalen Kulturgüteraustausches gewidmet. Dennoch bleibt die Frage nach sachgerechter und angemessener Regulierung weiterhin offen und wird kontrovers diskutiert. Dieser Beitrag möchte die Aufmerksamkeit auf die Leitideen und jene Begriffe lenken, die den UNESCO-Konventionen und Empfehlungen zum Umgang mit Kulturgütern zugrunde liegen. Im Mittelpunkt der Untersuchung steht dabei die Frage, ob die Regulierungsempfehlungen der UNESCO dem Ziel der Förderung des internationalen Kulturaustausches tatsächlich in der Praxis dienlich sind oder ob wir es, aufgrund der Marginalisierung der privaten Akteure in diesem Feld, mit einer zumindest einseitigen und voreingenommenen Regulierung zu tun haben, die diesem Ziel am Ende zuwiderläuft. Die vorgenommenen Betrachtungen legen den Schluss nahe, dass die Regularien der UNESCO von einigen Vorurteilen gegenüber privaten Akteuren und deren Aktivitäten und einer insgesamt negativen Einstellung gegenüber dem privaten Handel mit Kulturgütern getragen sind, woraus nicht zuletzt unerwünschte ökonomische Anreize zum Nachteil des internationalen Kulturaustausches erwachsen.

JEL-Code: Z110; K420; B410

Note

An earlier and much shorter version of this paper has been presented at the Annual Conference of the European Public Choice Society held at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1–4 April 2019. I am deeply indebted to my discussant Friedrich Heinemann, of ZEW Mannheim, for thorough and valuable comments. All remaining shortcomings are, of course, mine.


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Published Online: 2019-03-19
Published in Print: 2019-03-16

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