Bilateral agreements

MOU-banner-artThe UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970 (UNESCO Convention) limits the movement of stolen and looted cultural property. Under this Convention, more than 120 signatories join forces to protect the world’s shared cultural heritage.

As the first major art-importing country to ratify the Convention, the U.S. signed into law the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CCPIA) in 1983, enabling the U.S. government to enter into emergency and bilateral agreements, or Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) to restrict the importation of specified objects that are in danger of being looted from archaeological sites. Click here for more information about each bilateral agreement with the U.S.


How does it work?

When a country makes a request for a bilateral agreement, the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) reviews the request the based on four determinations:

1) that the cultural patrimony of the requesting nation is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological materials;
2) that the requesting nation has taken measures to protect its cultural patrimony;
3) that U.S. import restrictions, either alone or in concert with actions taken by other market nations, would be of substantial benefit in deterring the serious situation of pillage, and
4) import restrictions would promote the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

CPAC consists of 11 private citizens, representing the interests of the museums, private collectors, dealers and the general public. The U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs considers the recommendations of CPAC and makes the decision whether or not to enter into a bilateral agreement.

Part of the review process includes public hearings in which any member of the public who can provide information pertaining to the four determinations may submit testimony in written statements as well as oral presentations. In other words, it is possible for any U. S. citizen to speak up and say NO TO PLUNDER, YES TO BILATERAL AGREEMENTS.

For more information about CPAC, please visit the U.S. State Department International Cultural Property Protection web site.

Countries that currently have bilateral agreements with the U.S. are highlighted in red on the map above. Hover over each country you will see the year the MOU was initially signed. Click on the country and you will be taken to that country’s page on the U.S. State Department International Cultural Property Protection web site.