Press Releases

    GA/9995
    10 December 2001

    ASSEMBLY SELECTS 5 STATES TO SUBMIT CANDIDATES FOR JOINT INSPECTION UNIT: CHINA, UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, CUBA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, UNITED STATES

    Also Hears Introduction of Draft Text on Restitution of Cultural Property

    NEW YORK, 10 December (UN Headquarters) -- The General Assembly this morning selected five countries to submit candidates for appointment to the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) for a five-year term starting 1 January 2003. They were China, Cuba, Russian Federation, United Republic of Tanzania and the United States.

    In a first round of advisory voting, China was chosen by secret ballot from two candidates (China and Lebanon) to fill one vacancy for Asia.

    Since no country among the six candidates (Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius and United Republic of Tanzania) from Africa or the three candidates (France, Sweden and the United States) from Western Europe and Other States attained the required majority, a second round of voting was needed.

    In the second round, the United Republic of Tanzania was chosen from Africa and the United States was chosen from Europe and Other States.

    No voting was held for candidates from the Caribbean, which had backed Cuba, or for Eastern Europe, which had chosen the Russian Federation.

    Selected countries would be asked to propose a candidate for appointment to the JIU.

    The Assembly then turned to its debate on the return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin.

    Introducing a draft resolution on the topic, the representative of Greece said that raising public awareness was vital in combating the illicit traffic in cultural property. This year’s draft promoted transmitting information about stolen cultural property electronically and linking up existing databases, particularly one set up by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).

    Countries were divided into three groups when it came to the illicit trafficking in cultural treasures, said the representative of Cambodia. Exporters were mainly developing countries, while importers were mostly developed nations that could pay for stolen cultural artifacts, regardless of price. Transit countries with the location or laws to ease the passage of contraband made up the third group, he said.

    The Assembly will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m. to complete its debate on the item and consider the report of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).

    Background

    The General Assembly was expected to consider and take action on the appointment of members of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). It was also expected to consider and take action on the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.

    The Assembly had a note from the Secretary-General on the appointment of members of the JIU (document A/56/107), stating that five persons should be appointed for a five-year term, beginning on 1 January 2003, to fill vacancies. The President of the Assembly, after consultations, will determine the countries that would be requested to propose candidates and submit candidates’ names to the Assembly. The JIU consists of 11 Inspectors who shall serve in their personal capacity, and no two inspectors shall be nationals of the same State. The inspectors are chosen from among members of national supervision or inspection bodies, or from persons of a similar competence on the basis of their special experience in national or international administrative and financial matters, including management questions.

    The JIU, which began work in 1968, is mandated to satisfy itself that United Nations system activities are carried out in the most economical manner. Its inspectors have broad powers of investigation in all matters bearing on efficiency and the proper use of funds, and may make on-the-spot enquiries as they see fit.

    Also before the Assembly was a report by the Secretary-General (document A/56/413) on return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin. The question of restitution of works of art that are victims of appropriation was first considered by the General Assembly in 1972 (resolution 3026 A) at its twenty-seventh session and on 16 other occasions. By its resolution 54/190 of 17 December 1999, the General Assembly requested that the Secretary-General submit, in cooperation with the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the fifty-sixth session a report on the implementation of the resolution. The report was transmitted to the Secretary-General by the Director-General of UNESCO, pursuant to the above request.

    Since the submission of the previous report by the Director-General (A/54/436), UNESCO has continued to promote the return or restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin. It has endeavoured to implement the recommendations adopted by the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation at its tenth session, held in January 1999. The report describes the measures taken to follow up the recommendations adopted by the Committee at its tenth session, as well as the work of the Committee at its eleventh session, held at Phnom Penh in March 2001.

    The report also expresses its concern at the increased number of cases of illicit trafficking and the particular threat to the cultural heritage of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It appeals to UNESCO members to support Member States according to the means available for the inventory of their cultural heritage in order to guarantee better conservation at the national level, and better dissemination of information on cultural property in the event of theft.

    There was also a draft resolution (A/56/L.41) on the return or restitution of cultural properties to the countries of origin. By the terms of the draft, the General Assembly would urge Member States to introduce effective national and international measures to prevent and combat the illicit trafficking in cultural property. The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to cooperate with UNESCO to define and implement a strategy for the effective promotion of the International Fund for the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation, and would invite Member States, intergovernmental bodies, the private sector and other interested donors of the international community to make voluntary contributions to the Fund.

    The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to cooperate with UNESCO in its efforts to develop all possibilities, including further initiatives of the present resolution.

    By further terms of the text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the Director-General of UNESCO, to submit to the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session a report on the implementation of the present resolution.

    The draft is sponsored by Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Greece, Lebanon, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Uruguay.

    Appointment of members of the Joint Inspection Unit

    The Vice-President of the Assembly, DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) informed delegates that, according to information received from the Chairmen of regional groups, there were six candidates from the African States for one vacancy in the JIU: Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius and United Republic of Tanzania. For one vacancy from the Asian States, there were two candidates: China and Lebanon. For one vacancy from the Eastern European States, the group of Eastern European States had endorsed the Russian Federation. The group of Latin American and Caribbean States had endorsed Cuba for one vacancy. The group of Western European and other States had one vacancy, for which there were three candidates: France, Sweden and the United States.

    In order to draw up a list of candidates, the President of the General Assembly would consult with Member States by holding an advisory vote by secret ballot. Selected countries would be requested to propose a candidate for appointment to the JIU. No advisory vote was requested for the Russian Federation and Cuba.

    The countries receiving the greatest number of votes, and not less than a majority of the votes of those present and voting, should be in the list to be drawn up of countries requested to propose one candidate each for appointment.

    Voting results of first round of balloting

    African States

    Number of ballot papers 177
    Number of invalid ballots 3
    Number of valid ballots 174
    Number of abstentions 2
    Number of Members voting 172
    Required majority 87

    Results:

    United Republic of Tanzania 61
    Cameroon 41
    Kenya 34
    Egypt 11
    Comoros 9

    No State had achieved the required majority.

    Asian States

    Number of ballot papers 177
    Number of invalid ballots 3
    Number of valid ballots 174
    Number of abstentions 1
    Number of Members voting 173
    Required majority 87

    Results:

    China 114
    Lebanon 59

    Having achieved the required majority, China would be included in the list of countries to be drawn up.

    Western European and Other States

    Number of ballot papers 177
    Number of invalid ballots 6
    Number of valid ballots 171
    Number of abstentions 2
    Number of Members voting 169
    Required majority 85

    Results:

    United States 81
    France 64
    Sweden 24

    No State had achieved the required majority.

    According to rule 94 of the Assembly’s rules of procedure, a second round of balloting was necessary to select a country from among the two African States that were not selected but obtained the greatest number of votes in the previous ballot -– Cameroon and the United Republic of Tanzania -- and likewise from among the Western European and Other States (France, United States).

    Results from second round of balloting

    African States

    Number of ballot papers 176
    Number of invalid ballots 2
    Number of valid ballots 174
    Number of abstentions 1
    Number of Members voting 173
    Required majority 87

    Results:

    United Republic of Tanzania 109
    Cameroon 64

    Having achieved the required majority and the most votes, the United Republic of Tanzania was added to the list of countries to be drawn up.

    Western European and Other States

    Number of ballot papers 176
    Number of invalid ballots 0 Number of valid ballots 176
    Number of abstentions 0
    Number of Members voting 176
    Required majority 89

    Results:

    United States 98
    France 78

    Having achieved the required majority and the most votes, the United Republic of Tanzania was added to the list of countries to be drawn up.

    Thus, China, Cuba, Russian Federation, the United Republic of Tanzania and the United States would be requested to submit the names of candidates for the JIU and their curricula vitae, highlighting their relevant qualifications. After holding appropriate consultations, the President of the Assembly would propose a list of qualified candidates to the Assembly for appointment to the JIU.

    Return or restitution of cultural property to countries of origin

    The Assembly then turned to the second item on this morning’s agenda –- the return of cultural property to the countries of origin.

    Introduction of draft resolution A/56/L.41

    ELIAS GOUNARIS (Greece), introducing draft resolution A/56/L.41, said the draft had been before the Assembly for many years and reflected serious concerns shared by a vast number of Member States. The return of cultural property to its countries of origin, or its restitution in case of illicit appropriation, had been methodically promoted by the UNESCO. He expressed his appreciation to the 22 Member States of the "Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation" for their recommendations, adopted this year during its eleventh session, held in Phnom Penh.

    He said raising public awareness was essential for combating the illicit traffic in cultural property. This year’s draft promoted the electronic transmission of information concerning stolen cultural property, and the linking of existing databases, in particular the one developed by the International Criminal Police Organization. He fully supported UNESCO’s appeal for contributions to the International Fund designed to assist in the effective and prompt return of cultural property to its creators. Greece, being the repository of a cultural heritage which was now shared by all mankind, firmly believed that cultural and natural heritage constituted a treasure that needed to be preserved for the benefit of all nations.

    In no other year could this message be more timely, he said [2002 being the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage], and emphasized the importance of dialogue, tolerance, mutual understanding, respect and cooperation between cultures, religions and civilizations. The continuous cooperation between Member States, the transparency of information, the open exchange of views between parties concerned, the promotion of a spirit of dialogue, were all essential in addressing the issue. He hoped the draft captured this year’s momentum by expressing concern about the alarming scale of damage, loss, destruction, removal, theft, pillage, illicit traffic and, in particular, vandalism directed against cultural property, which constituted crimes against humanity’s cultural heritage. Consultations on the draft would be concluded tomorrow with a consensus text, he said.

    He announced that, so far, Argentina, Armenia, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Poland, Syria, United States, Yugoslavia, Suriname, Iraq, Portugal, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gabon, Republic of Korea, Romania and Togo had joined as co-sponsors of the draft.

    Statements

    OUCH BORITH (Cambodia) said Cambodia’s archaeological treasures remained threatened by plundering despite the efforts of the international community. The archaeological site of Angkor, the seventh wonder of the world, which extended over 200 square kilometres, continued to be the victim of inhuman acts -- acts damaging to Cambodian culture and civilization. Each culture attached a special importance to its own values and creativity. Concerning the illicit traffic in cultural artifacts and cultural treasures, he explained that countries had been divided into different groups. Some countries were seen as exporting countries; these countries were mostly developing countries. The importing countries were mostly developed countries and had the means to pay for that acquisition irrespective of price. There were also transit countries, whose location or law facilitated the illegal passage of contraband.

    In an attempt to establish measures to ensure the return and repatriation of cultural and artistic goods that had been stolen and illegally exported, he said it was essential that all countries work together to improve international cooperation on the issue. He added that there were some positive developments in his country, resulting from the serious work and cooperation between his Government and relevant countries and authorities. In fact, Cambodia’s most prized cultural treasures, which had been stolen or illegally exported, had been returned to the Government. They included 117 pieces of art from the temple of Banteay Chmar, and the return of the head of Shiva from a museum in New York.

    * *** *