Press Releases

A Regional Action Plan for the Return of African Cultural Property to Their Countries of Origin

09 Apr, 2019

Cotonou, 9 April 2019. A meeting of Directors of Cultural Heritage and Museums will be held in Cotonou, Benin’s administrative capital from 9 to 11 April 2019, in order to formulate a regional action plan for the return of cultural property to their countries of origin.

Directors of Cultural Heritage of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and resource persons or specialists in museum management will take part in the meeting.

The two authors of the report on “reflections on the return of artefacts in Africa” commissioned by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, representatives of the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums, (ICOM) will also be in attendance.

The meeting will validate the regional action plan on the return of cultural property to their countries of origin, identify practical modalities for the return of the property and review measures taken by these countries to return their cultural property.

Participants are also expected to map out ECOWAS Member States African cultural property held in western countries, analyse methods of preserving and protecting Member States’ cultural heritage, propose joint actions that would lead to the adoption of a regional mechanism for the return of the cultural items and define a strategy for preserving the property once returned to their countries of origin.

The Cotonou meeting will be a forum for discussions on the procedures, negotiations and steps to be taken to realize the desire of African countries for the return of African cultural property as demanded by African countries, and also the conditions for preserving the property once returned.

In December 2018, ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, in Abuja, Nigeria adopted a Political Declaration on the return of African cultural artefacts to their countries of origin.

In the Declaration, West African leaders instructed the ECOWAS Commission to submit a regional action plan on the return of these goods.

In that regard, a draft regional action plan was prepared by the Commission. However, prior to its submission to the Heads of State, it needs to be endorsed by the region’s heads of cultural heritage and approved by the Ministers for Culture of Member States, the objective for convening the Cotonou meeting.

Each country is expected to present its country situation report, particularly the description of measures proposed or taken, estimated number of such artefacts with countries in their possession, countries and places where they are kept, strategies proposed for receiving them in their countries of origin such as the provision of infrastructural, preservation, security services and development of the property once they are returned.

Apart from making further improvement to the draft action plan, the meeting will also consider the road map on the return of cultural property, particularly the background, constraints and challenges, including guidelines, strategic approaches and objectives as well as activities for implementation.


Member States