Switzerland aims to contribute to the preservation of the cultural heritage of mankind by means of the Cultural Property Transfer Act (‘CPTA‘), which implements the 1970 UNESCO Convention into national law. According to art. 14 CPTA, the Specialized Body for the International Transfer of Cultural Property at the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (‘Specialized Body‘) annually grants financial assistance for the preservation of movable cultural property of other States.
There are three types of projects which qualify for financial assistance:
(i) Temporary Fiduciary Custody and Conservatory Care (art. 14 (1)(a) CPTA)
Museums and similar institutions in Switzerland may apply for financial assistance for the temporary fiduciary custody and conservatory care of another State’s cultural property, which is in jeopardy owing to exceptional events in that State. This requires the consent of the respective State and a confirmation of the receiving Swiss institution that the cultural property will be repatriated once those exceptional events have normalized.
(ii) Projects to Preserve Cultural Heritage (art. 14 (1)(b) CPTA)
Individuals and legal entities can apply for financial assistance for projects aiming to preserve the movable cultural heritage of other States party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Such projects may include the establishment of inventories, the organization of conferences to raise awareness as well as undertakings to prevent destruction and theft.
(iii) Projects to Ease Restitution of Cultural Heritage (art. 14 (1)(c) CPTA)
In exceptional cases, state authorities and international organizations (art. 13 (1) Cultural Property Transfer Ordinance, ‘CPTO’) can apply for financial assistance to ease the restitution of cultural heritage of States party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. This requires the confirmation of the receiving State that the restituted cultural property will not be sold (art. 14 (d) CPTO).
The budget for such financial assistance is 700,000 Swiss Francs p.a. The maximum contribution is fifty percent of the asserted costs capped at 100,000 Swiss Francs per project for (i) and (ii) and 50,000 Swiss Francs for (iii) (arts 11 (1), 12 (1) and 13 (2) CPTO).
Priority is given to temporary fiduciary custody and conservatory care (art. 14 (1)(a) CPTA) as well as projects to preserve cultural heritage (art. 14 (1)(b) CPTA). Furthermore, to strengthen bilateral co-operation, projects with States party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention which have concluded an agreement with Switzerland on the import and restitution of cultural property are treated preferentially (art. 7 CPTA). To this day, Switzerland has already concluded agreements with Italy, Peru, Greece, Colombia, Egypt, China and Cyprus.
A few examples of financial assistance granted in 2013:
12,715 Swiss Francs were granted to the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities in Greece for the conservation of an equestrian bronze statue. The statue was found by fishermen near the island of Kalymnos and would have suffered considerable damage without preventative measures. 50,000 USD were granted to the UNESCO for the organization of an emergency workshop to establish an action plan for the preservation of Syrian cultural heritage. 5,000 Swiss Francs were granted to the University of Berne’s Institute of Linguistics for collecting and digitizing endangered historic tape recordings of rare Afghan dialects. 76,000 Swiss Francs were granted to a project of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Zurich for the establishment of an inventory for archaeological excavations in Spina, Italy, allowing for proper storage of cultural property.
Applications for financial assistance can be submitted until October 31, 2014.
Sources: Website for Financial Assistance for Movable Cultural Heritage of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture (‘SFOC’); ‘Leitbild Finanzhilfen zu Gunsten der Erhaltung des beweglichen kulturellen Erbes‘ of the SFOC as of March 31, 2014; ‘Kriterien für die prioritäre Vergabe von Finanzhilfen zu Gunsten der Erhaltung des beweglichen kulturellen Erbes‘ of the SFOC as of March 31, 2014.