Success! Repatriation is now included in UNESCO’s Draft Policy on Indigenous Peoples

IITC’s Executive Director Andrea Carmen, shown with members of the UNESCO Convention Secretariat on May 17, 2017, was invited to participate for the 2nd time in the Subsidiary Committee for UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Illicit Transport of Cultural Heritage at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

On August 9th 2017 the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted a revised draft of their “Policy on Engaging with Indigenous Peoples” which now includes operative paragraph 77 r) on repatriation of Indigenous Peoples’ human remains and sacred items as follows:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to repatriation of their human remains and States should seek to enable access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in states’ possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with the indigenous peoples concerned.”

The current draft of the Policy will continue to be discussed at the next meeting of the Executive Committee in October 2017.

This has been a two-year focus of work for IITC’s engagement with UNESCO, with the active support of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP). A new mechanism for the international repatriation of Indigenous Peoples sacred items and human remains, as called for in Aritlecs 11 and 12 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Operative Paragraph 27 of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Outcome Document and Indgienous Peopels around the world. The next steps in the establishment of this new mechsnsims will be discussed at the upcoming “International Conference on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Cultural Heritage, November 16-17 at the University of Helsinki in Finland. IITC, EMRIP and UNESCO are invited presenters on this issue.

Contact IITC Executive Director Andrea Carmen for more information at