Press release

UNESCO brings together international actors to fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property


On 14 September, UNESCO will organize in partnership with the European Union, an online debate entitled “The fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property: for a strengthened global dialogue” (12 - 6 pm CET). The event aims to bring together all actors in the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property to discuss collaborative ways to strengthen the fight against the illegal trade in cultural property at the global level and identify concrete actions to be implemented.

Illicit trafficking in cultural properties is a lucrative global scourge, in most cases connected to other forms of organized crime. It affects all regions of the world, and the pandemic has worsened the situation. We must enhance the responsibility of all actors involved in the fight against these crimes, which undermine the identity of peoples.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

Illicit trafficking in cultural property has increased considerably in recent years, particularly in areas affected by armed conflicts and natural disasters. During the health crisis, reduced surveillance, protection and resources, have worsened the situation: closed museums have been targeted, archaeological sites looted on a large scale, and a noticeable increase in illicit online sales were observed. The international conference will address the gamut of issues relating to illicit trafficking, including questions concerning actors’ ethical responsibility, proof of provenance, money laundering and illicit online sales of cultural property.

This debate is part of UNESCO's ongoing work to implement the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. It reflects the aim of the Organization, its partners and States Parties to work together to fight illicit trafficking in cultural property and promote the responsible practices among all the actors involved.

Provisional agenda 

  • Opening by Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO
  • Address by Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission 
  • Address by Angela Martins, Representative of the African Union Commission

Three thematic panels will bringing together public and private actors, including: 

  • George Abungu, Archaeologist, Emeritus Director-General of the National Museums of Kenya
  • Matthew Bogdanos, Head of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, Assistant District Attorney of New York, USA 
  • Laith Majid Hussein, Deputy Minister of Culture, Head of the National Commission for Antiquities and Heritage, General Director of Museums Directorate, Iraq 
  • Alejandro Celorio Alcantara, Legal Advisor to the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, Mexico
  • Alexandre Giquello, President of Drouot Patrimoine, France 
  • Kate Fitz Gibbon, Editor of the online Cultural Property News
  • Roberto Riccardi, Brigadier General, Commander of the Carabinieri for the protection of cultural heritage, Italy

    Wolfgang Weber, Global Head of Regulatory Policy, eBay

Panel 1: Regional needs and specific priorities 
Moderator: Catherine Fiankan-Bokonga (France24, correspondant) 

Panel 2: Due diligence of professionals 
Moderator: Tom Mashberg (New York Times newspaper) 

Panel 3: provenance, online sales and situation of countries in emergency situations.
Moderator: Tom Mashberg (New York Times newspaper)