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Item4: Annual Half-Day Discussion on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
September 22, 2015

Human Rights Council 30th Session
Agenda Item 4: Annual Half-Day Discussion on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

As Delivered by Jason Mack

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thank you.  The World Conference outcome document recognizes the importance of repatriating ceremonial objects and human remains.  Working together, the Department of State, Department of the Interior, and several U.S. tribes have attempted to recover objects offered for sale at non-U.S. auctions.  To refine our approach going forward, the United States is preparing a strategy for future sales in foreign countries.  The strategy should ultimately aim to reduce the amount of tribal cultural property that is inappropriately offered and sold abroad.  It should also give tribes more ways to identify and repatriate protected cultural property.  Tribes understandably would prefer not to have to purchase their items in order to get them back.

The United States does not favor developing new international instruments to protect cultural property.  Instead, member states should ratify and implement existing international instruments and strengthen relevant domestic legislation.

Going forward, we recommend three courses of actions.  First, countries should consider amending any domestic legislation that inhibits the recovery and repatriation of indigenous cultural property.  Second, all parties in lawful cultural property trade should act transparently and consistent with applicable legal requirements and ethical codes.  Third, we encourage full documentation of cultural property, which facilitates the items’ recovery and repatriation in cases of illicit removal.

On the important topic of enhanced participation of indigenous peoples in the UN, that discussion has to take place in New York rather than in Geneva.  The U.S. Mission in New York continues to consult with interested delegations on how to create momentum for improving indigenous peoples’ access to UN activities.