‘Matrix of Ethical Principles as a Tool in Mediating a Cultural Heritage Dispute.’

In my essay ‘Mediating Cultural Heritage Disputes’ (NB the working draft appears on the ‘Mediation of Art & Cultural Heritage Disputes’ page at www.carlislam.co.uk), I am developing a ‘Matrix of Ethical Principles’ which include the following principles extracted from ‘DCMS Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums’, as these principles appear to have a wider application to the deaccessioning and repatriation of cultural property held in museums generally. At the Institute of Art & Law Training Day on Saturday, I will ask – ‘As a tool for starting the Mediation conversation/engine -what generic ethical principles can a Mediator invite the participants to discuss at the start of the Mediation Day in order to identify both common ground and constraints?’

The Ethical Principles set out in the Matrix in my essay are:

·       ‘Non-Maleficence – doing no harm’

Avoiding doing harm wherever possible to an individual, a community or the general public, e.g. by not taking an action that would cause distress to a particular community.

·       ‘Respect for diversity of belief – respect for diverse religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs and attitudes to cultural property – i.e. tolerance and respect.’

This requires demonstration of humility and modesty regarding one’s own opinions, and the showing of respect for individuals, cultures, groups and communities. Decision-makers must be seen and heard to give consideration to the cultural and historical backgrounds, beliefs and values relevant to all parties concerned. E.G. it would require a museum to recognize and respect that a community may place a particular cultural value on cultural property that is not shared by others.

·      ‘Respect for the value of research and science.’

·      ‘Solidarity – furthering humanity through co-operation and consensus in relation to cultural property.’

The principle of solidarity recognizes that we all have a shared humanity and an interest in furthering common goals and tolerating differences that respect fundamental human rights. Mutual respect, understanding and cooperation promote solidarity by fostering goodwill and a recognition of our shared humanity. This principle emphasizes the importance of rising above our differences to find common ground, co-operation and consensus. It would be reflected, for example by seeking to find a consensus in relation to competing claims over cultural property that all parties can accept.

·       ‘Beneficence – doing good, providing benefits to individuals, communities or the public in general.’

Beneficence would dictate that your actions have good outcomes wherever possible. This might include advancing knowledge that is of benefit to humanity, for example, by using human remains for scientific research, or respecting the wishes of an individual for example, by returning the remains of their relative for the burial.