UNESCO To Hold Meetings On Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Properties


UNESCO Release

Release Date

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Paris, 22 September— Two meetings at UNESCO’s Headquarters will examine issues pertaining to the illicit trafficking in cultural properties and to the restitution of artefacts to their countries of origine. The first of these events will take place from 26 through 28 of September, the second from 29 through 30 September. Both will be held in Room II.

The 4th session of the Subsidiary Committee of UNESCO‘s Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property will, among other agenda items, focus on issues such as: Online sales, a new international mechanism on the repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains, money laundering and more. An action plan for the return of cultural objects illegally offered for sale will also be examined.

Notable participants scheduled to take part include Neil Brodie, an international expert on the illicit trafficking in cultural properties, John Carlson, Principal Administrator of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Andrea Carmen, Executive Director of the International Indian Treaty Council, and Carlo Chiaromonte, Head of the Criminal Law and Counter-Terrorism Divisions of the Council of Europe.

This meeting will be followed, on 29 and 30 September, by the 20th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation. Subjects on the agenda include: treasure hunters and the regulation of metal detectors and underground scanners, free ports and illicit trafficking. The session will also feature presentations on best practices in the restitution of cultural properties. Seeprovisional agenda.

Among the participants scheduled to take part in the meeting we find Marc-André Renold, Head of the cultural property law centre of the University of Geneva, Tone Hansen, Director of the Heni-Onstad Art Centre (Oslo) and Michelle Medina of the World Customs Organization.

Fighting illegal trafficking in cultural properties is part of the purview of UNESCO, which adopted a Convention on measures to be taken to stop the illicit export, import and transfer of cultural artefacts.

Worldwide, the illicit trade targeted by the Convention is estimated to total 3.4 to 6.3 billion dollars, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In Europe, Italy’s carabienieri have seized close to 800,000 cultural objects stolen or illegally excavated over the last 40 years. The problem is particularly acute in countries experiencing crisis, such as Syria and Iraq whose museums and archaeological sites are being pillaged and looted on an alarming scale.

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