Press release

UNESCO & Germany convene international community highlighting role of multilateralism in heritage protection on 50th anniversary of UNESCO Convention against illicit trafficking in cultural property

13/11/2020

UNESCO, the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, the European Commission and the Council of Europe are organizing an international online conference on multilateralism, cultural heritage protection and the fight against illicit trafficking from 16 to 18 November. 

The conference, Cultural Heritage and Multilateralism Regional and International Strategies for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, will take place in the framework of the events marking the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and on the occasion of the first International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property.

Contemporary challenges in the field of cultural heritage, due to climate change, natural hazards or illicit trafficking in cultural property, a concern which is at the heart of our shared humanity. These challenges are not contained by territorial boundaries and they will not be overcome durably without unity in finding solutions based on international cooperation and solidarity among all players, States and civil society.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

The conference will be opened on 16 November at 1pm by the Director-General of UNESCO, the German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel. The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed, will intervene by video message. 

The first part of the conference on 16 November will focus on the current challenges of protecting cultural heritage in times of crisis and in the face of climate change and examine risk prevention and the importance of multilateral cooperation at both regional and international levels.

The second part, 17-18 November, will be devoted to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Convention. It will be introduced by Ms Azoulay and the German Secretary of State for International Cultural Policy, Michelle Müntefering. A high-level panel will then bring together UNESCO's technical partners, with representatives of the Italian Carabinieri, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, will also take part in the event, as will a high representative of the Peruvian authorities who will present the outcomes of the Cuzco Forum on Regional Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Several roundtable discussions with experts will be dedicated to the mechanisms for the restitution of cultural property in line with the 1970 Convention and regional priorities and specificities in the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property.

The 1970 Convention, the first instrument of international law for the protection of cultural property in peacetime, has been ratified by 140 States. But challenges concerning trafficking in cultural property remain numerous: large-scale looting exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, archaeological sites in conflict zones, rising illegal online sales. UNESCO supports its Member States by providing technical expertise, helping improve national legislation, promoting cooperation between parties to the Convention, as well as training cultural and customs professionals. 

In mid-October, UNESCO launched an international communication campaign, The Real Price of Art. The campaign, developed with the DDB Paris communication agency, uses the idiom of the world of art and design to expose the grim reality behind the illicit trafficking of cultural property. 

 

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Media contact:

Clare O'Hagan, +33 (0)145681729