Radio New Zealand has recently reported that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is urging Pacific Islands countries to sign its convention on the protection and the preservation of cultural properties. The call came from a workshop on the Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Objects that was held in Vanuatu last week. The workshop involved participants from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand.
The workshop also featured representatives from the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Oceania Customs Organisation, Pacific Heritage Hub/University of the South Pacific and the Pacific Island Museum Association.
A slit drum, Vanuatu
The director of the UNESCO Office for the Pacific states, Etienne Clement, says the convention was important for protecting the unique culture of the region. He admits the focus for the workshop was Melanesia, where there are huge problems with the removal of cultural objects. Clement believes that a major outcome of the workshop was the adoption by participants of the Port Vila Declaration which is a first step towards getting governments to commit to the cause.