Cultural Heritage Conventions and Other Instruments: a compendium with commentaries by Patrick J. O’Keefe and Lyndel Prott 458 pp.Institute of Art and Law, Pentre Moel, Cickendarn, Builth Wells LD2 3BX, Wales. Available via www.ial.uk.com, 2012, £39 (sbk), ISBN 978-1903987123; International Law and the Protection of Cultural Heritage by Craig Forrest 343 pp., 37 colour illustrationsRoutledge, 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon OX14 4RN, 2011, £26 (sbk), ISBN 978-0415684170
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
© 2013 The Authors. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2013 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 238–239, March 2013
How to Cite
Firth, A. (2013), Cultural Heritage Conventions and Other Instruments: a compendium with commentaries by Patrick J. O’Keefe and Lyndel Prott 458 pp.Institute of Art and Law, Pentre Moel, Cickendarn, Builth Wells LD2 3BX, Wales. Available via www.ial.uk.com, 2012, £39 (sbk), ISBN 978-1903987123; International Law and the Protection of Cultural Heritage by Craig Forrest 343 pp., 37 colour illustrationsRoutledge, 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon OX14 4RN, 2011, £26 (sbk), ISBN 978-0415684170. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42: 238–239. doi: 10.1111/1095-9270.12008_23
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
These two books cover similar ground and are largely complementary. Both concern themselves with international law relating to cultural heritage across its breadth, rather than having a specifically marine focus, but both deal in detail with the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001. The volumes are complementary because they each take a different approach. Forrest presents an analysis of five themes in international cultural heritage law—centred on five UNESCO cultural heritage conventions—and ties them together with an overall thesis on the development of an ‘international law of co-operation’ in the cultural heritage sphere. With the emphasis very much on the analysis, there is no room in Forrest's volume for the text of the conventions themselves. O'Keefe and Prott take the opposite tack. As its title suggests, this volume is made up predominantly of the texts of conventions and other international legal instruments, with only brief accompanying narratives. The coverage of O'Keefe and Prott is very much wider than Forrest, covering more than 30 instruments including conventions, recommendations and declarations and encompassing the Council of Europe and the European Union as well as the UN/UNESCO.
Both volumes are similar in that they will probably appeal to a range of audiences beyond those specializing in international cultural heritage law, which might be broadly characterized as archaeologists who are looking for an introduction to international law, and (international) lawyers who are looking for an introduction to cultural heritage. Naturally, I am going to take the point of view of an archaeologist, and a marine-oriented one at that. Both books cater for non-lawyers by including general introductions that explain some of the key concepts and issues. It is, I think, an advantage that neither book limits itself to ‘marine’ because these general introductions to international law and law-making are very helpful—essential if you are an archaeologist who wants to understand the character of these instruments having only a knowledge of domestic or national legislation. The law presented here is predominantly that concerning the actions of states, not the actions of individuals. The instruments have the capacity to set the parameters within which domestic law is introduced, and in some cases the international law is incorporated directly into domestic law, but issues of compliance can only be brought by one state in respect of another.
Forrest sets this all out clearly in a chapter on the international legal framework, which includes sections on the interpretation of conventions and on international customary law. It might also have been helpful to include here an introduction to jurisdiction and its different forms and principles, to explain how states can seek to control activities beyond their borders, and how such capabilities are constrained. This matter is, of course, central to the UNESCO UCH Convention, but it is also relevant in any terrestrial case where a state is trying to control the behaviour towards cultural heritage of people who are not in that state, of which there are many permutations.
Both books encourage the marine reader to consider UCH in the context of the overall assemblage of international cultural heritage law. Certainly, many of the other instruments have a bearing on UCH either directly—where UCH falls within their scope explicitly or implicitly—or indirectly, because of the principles and approaches they set out. If you are only familiar with the 2001 UNESCO Convention on UCH, then either of these books would help provide a more rounded appreciation of the international legal landscape.
O'Keefe and Prott's compendium is an especially useful volume if you want to be able to go back to the texts themselves to check precisely what they say. By collecting them all together into a handy volume, they will save repeated searches of the web or for saved pdfs. I would fully expect to see copies of this book festooned with sticky tabs and annotations being pulled out at meetings and in classrooms for years to come. The text of each instrument is accompanied by a list of States Parties as at 1 February 2011 and a short bibliography. The introductory commentaries to each instrument are brief, even abrupt, but they provide thoughtful opinions on the key aspects of their introduction, features and points of contention. The commentaries are certainly not anodyne and will undoubtedly prompt challenges and debate in future.
The inclusion of EU instruments—on the return of objects unlawfully removed from a country, and on export of cultural goods—is interesting. As O'Keefe and Prott explain, EU law can have a much more direct effect on individuals than the other instruments collected in their volume. On reflection, it seems surprising that O'Keefe and Prott did not also consider two other EU instruments, namely the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive. These instruments make only passing reference to cultural heritage, but the requirement systematically to consider cultural heritage alongside other environmental concerns when assessing major development schemes and programmes is having a profound effect on the investigation and safeguarding of UCH in many European countries.
Forrest's account involves a 40-page introduction to the 2001 Convention that is then addressed in only 30 pages. This imbalance might be a product of some brutal editing because there is not the analytical clarity in the discussion of UCH that I anticipated. Even if much text has been lost, I cannot say the process has been effective; there are certainly sections that would have benefitted from further attention. There are typos as well—too many to overlook and in one example (p. 333) the application of the Convention is said to depend upon objects and sites etc. being ‘regarded as O'Keefe’, which is extraordinary. Although many interesting points are raised and Forrest maintains a readable and apparently authoritative narrative, the arguments are not always thoroughly developed and my confidence in the volume suffered as a result. My unease is difficult to illustrate in a short review, but there are often assertions and generalised appeals—‘clearly’, ‘it should be welcomed’, ‘there is no doubt'—where evidence or reason might have been expected.
A final impression from both volumes is that in most spheres of cultural heritage law, the states that make up the international community have sought to engage pro-actively in developing better ways of dealing with the wonders created by our predecessors for which we are presently responsible. International heritage law is grappling with a broader range of heritage and more diffuse constituencies, not necessarily with unanimity but at least with some degree of innovation. The sphere of underwater cultural heritage, however, remains bound by established—though not necessarily old—constructs of salvage, jurisdiction and sovereignty that are more of a hindrance than a help in resolving practical cases of underwater heritage management. As both these volumes demonstrate, international heritage law can be dynamic and progressive; by presenting UCH firmly within this overall context, both volumes surely raise the expectation that state attitudes to the past ought to transcend the land/sea boundary with equal creativity.