The ECOWAS Commission through the Directorate of Human Development and Social Affairs has organized an International Symposium on Restitution of African Cultural Property from 20 to 23 March 2023 at the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal.
The opening ceremony of the International Symposium was chaired by Prof. Aliou SOW, the Senegalese Minister for Culture and Historic Heritage. He commended ECOWAS for having this great initiative that will build the capacity of the Member States on the process and approaches to the restitution.
In her welcome remarks, Prof. Fatou Sow Sarr, Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission, highlighted that the ECOWAS Action Plan 2019-2023 for the return of African cultural property to its countries of origin gives the Member States a framework for consulting and convincing interlocutors of the need to deal with the issue of restitution as a whole and not in a piecemeal or case-by-case fashion.
Prof. Sarr commended the efforts made over the last two years by several countries in the region to ratify certain international conventions, particularly the UNIDROIT Convention and managed to retrieve some of these cultural works from several Western Countries. She tasked stakeholders to develop collaborative strategies for accelerating the restitution of African Cultural Property to its Country of Origin.
Among the issues discussed at the symposium are the legal and political issues regarding the restitution of cultural property to its countries of origin, the essential measures for the process of restitution of cultural property, the role of Western museums and Diaspora Communities in the restitution process of cultural property and the vital steps in the dialogue with the holding partners on the strategy for the restitution of cultural property.
Participants at the event include Culture Experts from ECOWAS Member States, International Development Partners, and Commissioners in Charge of Culture across the ECOWAS Region, and Staff of the ECOWAS Commission & African Union among others.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established when the ECOWAS Treaty was signed by 15 West African Heads of State and Government on the 28th of May 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria. The ECOWAS region spans an area of 5.2 million square kilometres. The Member States are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.
Considered one of the pillars of the African Economic Community, ECOWAS was set up to promote co-operation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations-among Member States and contribute to the progress and development of the African continent.
In 2007, ECOWAS Secretariat was transformed into a Commission. The Commission is headed by the President, assisted by a Vice President, and Five Commissioners, comprising experienced bureaucrats who are providing the leadership in this new orientation. As part of thisrenewal process, ECOWAS is implementing critical and strategic programmes that will deepen cohesion and progressively eliminate identified barriers to full integration. In this way, the estimated 300 million citizens of the community can ultimately take ownership for the realization of the new vision of moving from an ECOWAS of States to an “ECOWAS of the People: Peace and Prosperity to All” by 2050.