G20 leaders call for culture protection and artifact return
During the opening day of the G20 summit in New Delhi, world leaders emphasised the importance of preserving cultural heritage and facilitating the return of cultural artifacts to their countries of origin. The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, adopted with strong support, placed culture at the forefront of global development goals.
Paragraph 31 of the declaration highlighted culture’s value as a “transformative driver” for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the words of the declaration:
“The full recognition and protection of culture with its intrinsic value as a transformative driver and an enabler for the achievement of the SDGs.”
This statement encouraged nations to recognise and protect their cultural heritage as a catalyst for positive change.
Furthermore, the declaration supported the idea of elevating culture to a standalone goal in future discussions about the post-2030 development agenda:
“Advance the inclusion of culture as a standalone goal in future discussions on a possible post-2030 development agenda.”
This perspective acknowledged the impact of culture on societies worldwide. A significant aspect of the G20 leaders’ commitment was their strong stance against the illicit trafficking of cultural property:
“Our commitment to strengthen our fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property at national, regional, or international levels to enable its return and restitution to their countries and communities of origin as relevant.”
They pledged to intensify efforts at national, regional, and international levels to combat this trade. The ultimate aim was the return and restitution of these treasures to their countries and communities of origin.
The leaders recognised that this endeavor required ongoing dialogue and concerted action, in line with national laws and relevant UNESCO Conventions: “Call for sustained dialogue and action in that endeavor, with a view to strengthening cultural diplomacy and intercultural exchanges, consistent with national law and relevant UNESCO Conventions.”
This initiative formed an integral part of the G20’s cultural agenda, particularly during India’s Presidency.
Highlighting their dedication to this cause, the Ministry of Culture in India organized an exhibition titled ‘Re(ad)dress: Return of Treasures’ on the sidelines of the G20 summit. The exhibition showcased 26 artifacts that had been stolen and smuggled abroad but were successfully repatriated to India. These artifacts served as proof of global co-operation in the protection of cultural heritage.
“The leaders’ declaration called for sustained dialogue and action in that endeavor, with a view to strengthening cultural diplomacy and intercultural exchanges, consistent with national law and relevant UNESCO Conventions.”
Emphasising ongoing dialogue and action to strengthen cultural diplomacy and intercultural exchanges.
In a rapidly evolving world, the G20 leaders also recognised the potential of digital technologies in preserving and promoting culture and cultural heritage:
“Will leverage digital technologies for the protection and promotion of culture and cultural heritage and adopt digital frameworks for the development of cultural and creative sectors and industries.”
They were committed to leveraging digital frameworks to advance the development of cultural and creative sectors and industries.
The New Delhi Declaration also referenced the Kashi Culture Pathway, adopted at the G20 Culture Ministerial Meeting held the previous month. This pathway identified various threats to cultural heritage, including looting and illicit trafficking of cultural property, damage to cultural heritage sites, desecration of relics and shrines, illicit excavations, forgery, and misappropriation of cultural heritage.