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Repatriation of Human Remains: International Standards

Resources for facilitating the return of ancestral remains and examining the issue from a critical historical perspective

International Affairs

There are currently no binding legal processes that address the repatriation of tangible cultural objects between different countries. However, there are a wide number of international frameworks and bilateral agreements that can offer guidance on pursuing the return of remains and funerary artifacts across national borders. Most notably, Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples directs member states to "enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned."

Although the United Nations leads the international community in providing direction on the repatriation of human remains, there are numerous other non-governmental organizations that also offer practical assistance in respectful return. 

Search Keywords

  • Tangible Cultural Property
  • Movable Cultural Property
  • Cultural Patrimony
  • Regulated Excavation
  • Custody


UNESCO graphicvia the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization at

UNDRIP and Repatriation

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

Other Organizations