17 March 2008The return of the Stone Birds of Great Zimbabwe, the Axum Obelisk of Ethiopia and a ceremonial mask of the Kwakwaka’wakw people of Canada are among recent examples of successful restitution of cultural property to be discussed at a United Nations-backed conference opening today. Attending the two-day event in Athens, Greece, co-organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and the Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, will be lawyers, museum professionals, archaeologists, academics and cultural property experts. Participants will exchange experiences and cover ethical and legal aspects of the issue, along with the topics of mediation and diplomacy, display sites and cultural context of artefacts and international cooperation and research, UNESCO said.Discussions will also take place on ways to strengthen the action of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation. Established by UNESCO in 1978, the Intergovernmental Committee, a strictly advisory body, is composed of 22 elected member states. It establishes forums for debate and offers non-legally binding recommendations.