Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mali, Guatemala, and Bulgaria Up for Discussion by CPAC - Public Session Slated for April 24

Lowland Maya mask from Guatemala.
Source: U.S. State Department
The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet to consider renewal requests by Mali and Guatemala for Memoranda of Understanding (MoU).  A public session will be held on April 24 to consider extending the bilateral agreements that would continue America's import controls over cultural property originating from these nations.

CPAC also intends to continue its discussion about Bulgaria's earlier request for a bilateral agreement.  That session, according to the Federal Register, will be a confidential meeting authorized by 19 U.S.C. 2605(h), which permits private discussions when "the President or his designee [determines] that the disclosure of matters involved in the Committee’s proceedings would compromise the government’s negotiation objectives or bargaining positions on the negotiations of any agreement authorized by [the CPIA]."

An MoU or bilateral agreement protecting jeopardized archaeological and ethnological objects may be enacted between nations pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property). Congress implemented the treaty by adopting the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.  Import protections granted under the CPIA last for five years and may be renewed thereafter.

Head of a Mali figure.
Source: US Department of State.
The United States enacted emergency import controls in 1993 over archaeological material from Mali's Niger River Valley and its Tellem burial caves at Bandiagara. This action led to the 1997 adoption of an MoU between the two nations.  The bilateral agreement was then extended in 2002 and 2007.  The last MoU was broadened to include archaeological objects from the Stone Age to the 1700s.

The United States also took emergency action in 1991 to cover Maya archaeological artifacts from Guatemala's Petén region, extending the protections in 1994.  In 1997, the U.S. and Guatemala entered into a bilateral agreement covering pre-Columbian archaeological material.  The countries extended the MoU in 2002 and 2007.  The 2007 MoU broadened Article 2's provision to include, among among other items, that "the Government of the Republic of Guatemala shall undertake an assessment with regard to improvements in broad areas such as law enforcement, cultural resource management, education, conservation, research, and the national museum system" before the agreement expired in 2012.

To attend or speak at the public session on April 24, you may reserve your place by calling  the Cultural Heritage Center of the Department of State at (202) 632–6301 by 5 p.m. EDT on April 3.  The meeting will be held at 2200 C St., NW. in Washington, DC.

Public comments may be submitted electronically to CPAC at and are due April 3 by the end of the day.  Enter docket number DOS-2012-0012 for Mali or docket number DOS-2012-0011 for Guatemala and follow the instructions on the web site.

The committee now only accepts electronic comments unless they are confidential under 19 U.S.C. 2605(i)(1).  Written submissions reasonably determined to qualify for confidentiality may be delivered or mailed to:

Cultural Heritage Center (ECA/P/C)
SA-5, Fifth Floor
Department of State
Washington, DC 20522-0505

Comments submitted to CPAC must address one, some, or all of the four determinations outlined by the CPIA.  Quoting 19 USC 2602, the four determinations are:

(A) [whether] the cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party;

(B) [whether] the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;

(C) [whether] --

(i) the application of the import restrictions . . . with respect to archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party, if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented, or to be implemented within a reasonable period of time, by those nations (whether or not State Parties [to the 1970 UNESCO Convention]) individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and

(ii) remedies less drastic than the application of the restrictions set forth in such section are not available; and

(D) [whether] the application of the import restrictions . . . in the particular circumstances is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

Tomorrow's Federal Register announcement of the CPAC meeting may be found here.