Although the illicit traffic of cultural goods cannot be scaled through exact figures, it is one of the main criminal activities in the world, along with the illicit trade of weapons and drugs. Besides being a crime against the history and identity of the concerned communities, as well as of the entire humanity, the illicit trafficking of cultural property is increasingly intertwined with other serious transnational criminal activities and networks, including the financing of terrorism.
Since 2006, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), is active in discussing the regional cooperation on the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property in South-East Europe. A first regional expert meeting was organized in Ohrid, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and a second one followed in Gazantiep, Turkey.
The outcomes and recommendations of the two meetings called for the enhancement of capacity-building actions at national level, with special focus on the coordination among relevant institutional stakeholders including police forces, ministries of culture, customs agencies and the judiciary. The development of human and institutional capacities is also a priority for the action of UNESCO in this field, on issues including national inventories, information and communication, exchange of best practices, and awareness-raising.
In 2014, UNESCO and Italy joined hands to train in Rome officials from the national authorities for culture, police and customs of countries of South-East Europe. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania have respectively benefitted from the training.
This year, from 21 to 25 November, a group of officials from relevant authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina will meet in Rome to benefit from the training organized by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, in cooperation with the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (Carabinieri, Cultural Heritage Protection Department, Italy). The organisation of the workshop is made possible thanks to the generous contribution of Italy to the UNESCO Regional Bureau in Venice.
The objective of this third training workshop in Rome is to raise awareness and develop professional capacities of the concerned services (with special focus on police, customs, judiciary, ministries of culture and civil affairs) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, at both the State and Entities levels, for the implementation of the relevant international standards, tools, and best practices.
Special focus will be set on the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property(1970), and on the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995).
Thanks to the precious cooperation of the Italian Carabinieri, Comando per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (Cultural Heritage Protection Department - TPC) and the contribution of international experts, participants in the workshop will receive information and training on a variety of topics related to the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural properties, as well as on issues such as the restitution or return of cultural objects, preventive measures and risk mitigation. The workshop’s resource persons will include senior representatives from international organizations - UNESCO, UNIDROIT, UNODC, the World Customs Organization, - as well as from Italian ministries and specialized services.
During the workshop, participants will also have the opportunity to attend a ceremony for the restitution of archaeological items seized by the Cultural Heritage Protection Department - TPC in favour of the Embassies of Ecuador and Guatemala in Italy, as evidence of the crucial importance of international cooperation in fighting such criminal activity.
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To date, the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property has been ratified by 131 Member States of UNESCO, including many culture-rich countries as well as former hubs of illicit traffic, supporting UNESCO’s untiring efforts to foster international cooperation on this topic.