Curbing the illicit trafficking of cultural property : focusing on countries of transition and the application of criminal justice

On Thursday 28 April 2016, the Permanent Missions of Jordan and Italy to the United Nations, together with UNESCO, INTERPOL, and UNODC, organized an expert meeting that focused on the illicit trafficking of cultural property in transit countries as part of the partnership initiative “Protecting Cultural Heritage –an Imperative for Humanity: Acting together against the destruction and trafficking of cultural property by terrorist groups and organized crime”.

The meeting was chaired by the Ambassador H.E. Dina Kawar (Jordan) and Ambassador H.E. Sebastiano Cardi (Italy) with the participation of other permanent representatives of member states, Ms. Emily Rafferty, Former director of Metropolitan Museum, as well as representatives of UNESCO, INTERPOL, UNODC, WCO,  Antiquities Coalition, Carabinieri and others.

UNESCO’s role in curbing the illicit trafficking of cultural property was highlighted by a number of participants. Some referred to the recent initiative for the creation of the Task Force for the protection of cultural heritage at UNESCO, while others commended the UNITE4Heritage Campaign. Furthermore, the importance of global ratification and implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, which are essential instruments for the return and restitution of cultural property, was emphasized. Additionally, participants advocated for the most efficient use of UNESCO Export Model Certificate.

Additionally, discussions focused on the concerted efforts to prevent illicit trafficking, including strengthening of the international cooperation in the law enforcement and criminal prosecution fields.  In this context, participants stressed that the specialization and training of the law enforcement authorities in investigations of illicitly trafficked cultural property was important as well as the efficient implementation of the respective international and national law. The need to ensure proper border and customs control and to timely share data was stressed as well.  Likewise, an appeal was made to make the best use of existing bilateral agreements and to continue efforts in raising awareness around the issue of illicit trafficking of cultural property and the links with the financing of terrorist and criminal groups.

A number of member states shared their national practices in the legislation and policy domains such as existing and upcoming legislation initiatives, lessons learned best practices and others.

This meeting is a follow up in a series of organized meetings by the Permanent Missions of Jordan and Italy with UNESCO, INTERPOL, and UNODC which will conclude with a High Level Meeting during UNGA General Debate in September. 

For more detailed information on the first meeting addressing the illicit trafficking of cultural property at the end of the market chain, click here. The third meeting on prevention of the destruction of  cultural heritage  and illicit trafficking of cultural property in countries of origin is scheduled to take place on 27 May at the UN Headquarters.