Ethics and museum professionals’ exemplary practices are essential for ICOM.
ICOM Code of Ethics for museums was adopted in 1986 and revised in 2004. It establishes the values and principles shared by ICOM and the international museum community. It is a reference tool translated to 37 languages and it sets minimum standards of professional practice and performance for museums and their staff.
By joining ICOM, each member commits to respect this code.
ICOM assists museums through an alternative dispute resolution in the process of complex negotiations.
The increase in ownership disputes, such as restitution claims of Nazi looted artwork, required to find other solutions than litigation.
ICOM is thus highly involved in promoting the restitution of illicitly acquired cultural property.
Mediation answers a need for assistance in negotiations in return or restitution cases for alternative dispute resolutions but also answers a broader need for museums to be guided in negotiations on return or restitutions cases but also acquisitions, loans, deposits, or licensing.
ICOM thus offers a service tailored to the needs of museums and actors of the cultural sector.
The idea of an art and cultural heritage mediation project was etched in 2006 by ICOM. Thanks to ICOM’s “good offices” in May 2010 the Barbier-Mueller Museum donated the Makondé Mask to Tanzania. Today, ICOM decides to broaden the range of ICOM’s alternative dispute resolution services by launching a mediation service dedicated to art and cultural heritage.
The choice of mediation was supported by its distinctive characteristics and advantages. Mediation is indeed able to overcome statute of limitations and take into account customary laws for claims such as misuse of traditional cultural expressions.
The Art and Cultural Heritage Mediation is a voluntary process in which the parties have primary responsibility for resolving their dispute or reaching an agreement after their negotiations.
The mediator acts as a non-coercitive neutral facilitator, meeting directly and simultaneously with both parties, he maintains the dialogue between the parties and assists them in identifying the issues and the interests at stake.
The focus is on assisting the parties to reach an agreement through direct communication and increased understanding. The shortcomings of litigation are avoided in mediation as it enables the parties to negotiate in confidentiality and control the procedure. Furthermore, mediation is cost-effective, and faster than litigation. There are no losers in mediation; the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement which safeguards both parties’ interests. An outcome in mediation cannot be forced upon the parties like in arbitration.
The Art and Cultural Heritage Mediation procedure is designed to satisfy the long felt need for a specialized alternative dispute resolution procedure adapted to the settlement of art and cultural heritage disputes or assistance in negotiations in the art and cultural heritage field, such as for instance restitution or authenticity issues. The ICOM-WIPO Mediation procedure is not restricted to ICOM Members; non-members can request mediation under the ICOM-WIPO Mediation Rules and benefit from the special joint ICOM-WIPO List of Mediators selected for their skills in mediation and their expertise in art and cultural heritage. Moreover mediation under the ICOM-WIPO Mediation Rules is a guarantee of respect of safeguards for mediator impartiality and independence and of high ethical standards embodied in the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums.
In the context of a ground-breaking global partnership, ICOM and WIPO, a United Nations agency, designed a unique mediation process adapted to art and cultural heritage issues.
WIPO comprises a renowned Arbitration and Mediation Center. ICOM benefits from WIPO’s expertise, know-how, and facilities in exchange of the benefit of ICOM’s art and cultural heritage expertise, high recognition among museum professionals and ICOM’s worldwide network.