From the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict



Article 1. Definition of cultural property

For the purposes of the present Convention, the term "cultural property" shall cover, irrespective of origin or ownership:

(a)movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest; as well as scientific collections and important collections of books or archives or of reproductions of the property defined above;

(b)buildings whose main and effective purpose is to preserve or exhibit the movable cultural property defined in sub-paragraph (a) such as museums, large libraries and depositories of archives, and refuges intended to shelter, in the event of armed conflict, the movable cultural property defined in subparagraph (a);

(c)centres containing a large amount of cultural property as defined in subparagraphs (a) and (b), to be known as “centres containing monuments".


 From the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

(Paris, 17 October 2003)


Article 2. Definition of intangible cultural heritage

The “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.

2. The “intangible cultural heritage”, as defined in paragraph 1 above, is manifested inter alia in the following domains:

(a) oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;

(b) performing arts;

(c) social practices, rituals and festive events;

(d) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;

(e) traditional craftsmanship.

3. “Safeguarding” means measures aimed at ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage, including the identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission, particularly through formal and non-formal education, as well as the revitalization of the various aspects of such heritage.


 From the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property

(Paris, 14 November 1970)

Article 1

For the purposes of this Convention, the term ”cultural property” means property which, on religious or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belongs to the following categories:

(a) Rare collections and specimens of fauna, flora, minerals and anatomy, and objects of paleontological interest;

(b) property relating to history, including the history of science and technology and military and social history, to the life of national leaders, thinkers, scientists and artists and to events of national importance;

(c) products of archaeological excavations (including regular and clandestine) or of archaeological discoveries;

(d) elements of artistic or historical monuments or archaeological sites which have been dismembered;

(e) antiquities more than one hundred years old, such as inscriptions, coins and engraved seals;

(f) objects of ethnological interest;

(g) property of artistic interest, such as:

(i) pictures, paintings and drawings produced entirely by hand on any support and in any material(excluding industrial designs and manufactured articles decorated by hand);

(ii) original works of statuary art and sculpture in any material;

(iii) original engravings, prints and lithographs;

(iv) original artistic assemblages and montages in any material;

(h) rare manuscripts and incunabula, old books, documents and publications of special interest(historical, artistic, scientific, literary, etc.) singly or in collections;

(i) postage, revenue and similar stamps, singly or in collections;

(j) archives, including sound, photographic and cinematographic archives;

(k) articles of furniture more than one hundred years old and old musical instruments.


 From UNESCO's How to Define Cultural Property"? Portal

The terms cultural "property", "heritage", "goods" and "objects" are often considered as interchangeable in common parlance. Their exact definition and legal regime (alienability, exportability, etc.) are to be sought in national legislation, or in international conventions.

Therefore such definitions and legal regimes vary from State legislation to State legislation, or from treaty (international convention) to treaty. Generally, the word "property" has a legal background (linked to "ownership"), while "heritage" stresses conservation and transfer from generation to generation. No particular culture-oriented connotation characterizes "good" and "object".

For the purposes of the fight against illicit trafficking, the definition of "cultural property" is at present unified among the States Parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention of the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

According to article 1 of the 1970 Convention and article 2 of Chapter 1 of the 1995 Convention, cultural property is considered as: the possessions which, on religious or secular grounds, is of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belongs to one of the categories specifically listed in the Conventions.

According to cultural property rights, the notion takes a specific sense as it is concerning the elements of the cultural heritage of a State: its cultural wealth.


  Definition of "Document Drain"

Definition of "Document Drain" developed by Peter Limb's article, "Ethical issues in Southern African Archives and Libraries," Innovations, no. 24, p. 52, 2002 and expanded by Britz, Johannes J. 2007. “The Joy of Sharing Knowledge: But what if there is not knowledge to share? A Critical Reflection on Human Capacity Bulding in Africa,” International review of Information Ethics, Vol. 7, p. 24-25

"The 'document drain' occurs in different ways. Via problems of preservation or access, or by acquisition by rich Western institutions able to afford entire archival or published collections — whilst the African archives or publishing houses in which they reside or are produced rot and decay. This trend relates to the ‘brain drain’. The loss of skilled labour to the West relates not only to Africa’s underdevelopment, but also to neglect and corruption: one estimate claims Africa lost 60,000 professionals between 1985 and 1990 and has been losing an average of 20,000 annually since [note suppressed]. That a sustained brain drain takes place is due in part to the poor conditions of African libraries, archives, and publishers." (Limb 2002: 52)

"Document drain refers to the initiatives by some major research libraries in the developed world (mostly the West) to purchase materials published in Africa and other parts of the developing world. These well resourced libraries include the Library of Congress; the Melville J Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; the Centre for African Studies Library at Leiden University, the Nether-lands; and the School of Oriental and African Studies Library, University of London, England (Britz & Lor, 2003)[footnote suppressed]. The implication of this trend is again clear: Scholars from Africa and other developing countries will find more comprehensive and better preserved collections of their own body of knowledge in these libraries than in their own countries." (Britz 2007)