Ethical Principles for the Management and Restitution of Colonial Collections in Belgium
In October 2018, some sixty academics and professional staff from the museum and heritage sector put their name under an opinion article in two Belgian newspapers that emphasized the need for a serious debate on the restitution of African cultural heritage acquired by Belgian museums during the colonial period. The article called for the development of ethical guidelines for the Belgian museum sector with respect to the management and restitution of colonial collections.
One year later, the initiators set up an independent Group of experts from different institutional and professional backgrounds. The result of this collaboration is a document that provides a first attempt at a series of guidelines for dealing with colonial collections and restitution, adapted to the Belgian context. This text is meant as a starting point, not an end point. The initiators are aware of its many limitations.
This group strongly believes in the need to proceed with a broader discussion, involving a greater variety of stakeholders, and more participants from the African diaspora and other communities and countries of origin. Equitable, honest, and real solutions in this debate cannot be achieved without such a process.
The complete version of this text is currently only available in English (the working language of the multilingual group of participants). The summary and the conclusions are available in English, Dutch and French. The authors intend to provide a complete Dutch and French translation, the timing of which depends on the availability of the authors and/or financial support.
Questions and comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Executive Summary
- 1. Introduction
2. Legal Framework
- 2.1 Existing legal instruments
2.2. Regulatory instruments of soft law
- 2.2.1 The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP), 1978
- 2.2.2 Washington Principles on Nazi-looted art, 1998
- 2.2.3 ICOM Code of Ethics, 2004
- 2.2.4 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007
- 2.2.5 Abuja Proclamation, 1993
- 2.2.6 Charter for African Cultural Renaissance, 2006
- 2.2.7 NAGPRA, 1990
- 2.3 Towards a New Legal Framework
- 3. Requests for Restitution
- 4. Accessibility of Information
- 5. Museum and Display Practices
- Conclusions and Final Recommendations
- Bibliography + Recommended Reading