UNESCO has recently launched a portal amongst antiquity officials of several nations which will serve as a directory of stolen items. The portal, launched early last month, is accessible to only officials authorised by each country who have ratified the 1976 UNESCO convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property. In India, the Archeological Survey of India has been selected to access the portal to keep a loop on the items that have been stolen.
The UNESCO also held a meeting on September 24 of officials from the 192 nations to discuss the idea. India sent officials from ASI and the MEA. The ASI official from India, however, could not attend due to the ongoing excavations of the 8,500 year old camping site at Ladakh.
In the portal, officials from each country were given a username and a password to access the directory. In the directory, thousands of stolen items are listed. And, officials from member countries can access the item and plan to bring back the stolen items.
As per the statutes of the convention, member nations must hand over items stolen from another member nation without any hassle. Since the Convention does not have an retrospective effect, in the case of items that were stolen before the UNESCO convention, which means that if any item was stolen from a country before 1976, then the statutes of the convention will not apply.
“In that situation, the countries must individually negotiate among themselves and bring it back,” said an official from the culture ministry. For instance, the Kohinoor does not come under the purview of the convention.
“Globally, countries are quick to send back items. Last month, we acquired some antiquities from the US. The officials sent a large number to the Indian Consulate’s office. We brought back what was genuine, and left the rest there,” said the official.