Brooklyn Journal of International Law


As the current trend of returning looted artifacts to their countries of origin continues to grow, the need for stricter law enforcement and a reevaluation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and its application has become apparent. Recently, museums and national governments worldwide have engaged in a repatriation dialogue through mutual cooperation with foreign institutions, rather than international litigation, which is both a long and expensive process. This is a result of both a shifting public opinion towards museums, and the growing awareness of the countries of origin regarding the value of their looted cultural heritage. Looted artifacts continue to flood the antiquities market as many war-torn nations are unable to protect them and the monetary incentives involved in smuggling cultural objects continue to be attractive. A comparison of U.S. and Australian legislation that applies the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the United States’ refusal to apply the Convention retroactively, reveals that there is much room for improvement in how both countries address the repatriation of looted artifacts. By providing a more appropriate model based on cooperation and reciprocity, as well as a more uniform enforcement of cultural heritage protection laws, there may still be a bright future for the international heritage movement.