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Forthcoming LKI Round Table on the Role of Diplomacy in Reclaiming Sri Lanka’s Cultural Property

October 3, 2019    Reading Time: 2 minutes

Reading Time: 2 min read

Image Credit: Fæ/Wikimedia Commons

The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) is convening a Foreign Policy Round Table on ‘The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Addressing Loss of Cultural Property: Perspectives From Sri Lanka,’ on Tuesday, 8 October 2019 from 4:30-6:00 pm. The roundtable will explore laws governing the return of Sri Lanka’s cultural property and the potential role of diplomacy on this issue.

Sri Lanka, home to centuries of art and culture, has suffered immeasurable loss of its cultural heritage and property. Under the current legal regime governing the return of cultural property lost during colonial times, which was created in a post-World War II context and dictated largely by those nations that were colonial powers, there is no legal basis to claim these items. Without an overhaul of this legal regime, the state must appeal to non-legal principles. Since the last such appeal by the Sri Lankan government to regain cultural property, made to the UK, yielded no positive result, it appears that the present approach needs to be revisited. Support for this proposition can be found in the work of organisations like UNESCO, and in recent efforts by other nations that have tried to use diplomacy to recover property lost during colonial times. Some countries holding such property (the Netherlands for instance) have themselves initiated a dialogue on the subject, which may bring about favourable results to Sri Lanka. In regard to cultural property lost due to armed conflict, there is a stronger legal regime in place that helps the state to act in a proactive manner. This can be seen in both local and international contexts. The 1988 Cultural Property Act of Sri Lanka, for instance, includes progressive mechanisms to regulate the movement of such property. A problem for Sri Lanka, however, is that there are inadequate resources and expertise to address all the issues effectively.

This event, which is supported by The Asia Foundation, is a rare opportunity for key stakeholders and other interested parties to explore this complex issue. It will feature a presentation by Dr. Naazima Kamardeen, Professor in the Department of Commercial Law at the University of Colombo, and a discussion moderated by Dr. Dinusha Panditaratne, Nonresident Fellow at LKI.

LKI is a think tank which analyses Sri Lanka’s international relations and strategic interests, chaired by the Hon. Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. It reflects the vision of the late Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar by promoting the country’s intellectual profile in foreign policy research and engagement.

Attendance is by prior registration. To register your interest, please email with your name and organisational affiliation.

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