The Future of (International) Cultural Heritage Law

The Future of (International) Cultural Heritage Law (I·CON Volume 16, Issue 1: Editorial)

by Lorenzo Casini, Professor of Administrative Law, IMT School for advanced studies of Lucca (Italy).*

1. As good as it gets?

On September 27, 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC), for the first time, punished the intentional destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime.[1] On March 24, 2017, the United Nations Security Council approved its Resolution no. 2347, on the destruction and smuggling of cultural property in case of armed conflict.[2] From March 30 to March 31, 2017, in Florence, the first ever G7 meeting of Ministers of Culture, together with representatives of the EU and of UNESCO, took place under Italy’s Presidency of the G7, and resulted in the issue of a joint declaration on “Culture as an instrument for dialogue among Peoples.”[3]

These three episodes are evidence that states and international institutions are progressively becoming more aware of the importance of cultural heritage and the urgent need to take global common actions to ensure its protection. As a matter of fact, the shocking images from Palmyra, to name but one example, and worrying data from several investigations show that terrorism identifies cultural property not only as a primary target but also as potential revenue.

Can we therefore affirm that a new era of (international) cultural heritage law has begun? If so, what kinds of effects can this new era have on international law and public law generally? And, finally, what is the role that countries with a long tradition of protecting cultural heritage can play within this context?

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