Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property

Training workshop on developing a strategy to fight the illicit trafficking of Syrian cultural property

As the convener of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970, UNESCO is at the forefront of fighting against the illicit traffic of cultural property.

In Jordan, the neighboring Syrian crisis has raised the alarm for the issue of illicit trafficking and looting of Syrian cultural artifacts. In response, UNESCO held a four-day regional training workshop in Amman in February 2013 to discuss the current situation of cultural heritage in Syria, develop an action plan to protect museums and archaeological sites from looting and trafficking, improve restitution to Syria, coordinate with relevant stakeholders and leverage UNESCO’s experience from other conflict and post-conflict situations.

The initiative gathered together representatives of government antiquities departments, police and customs from Syria and its neighbouring countries (Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey), international organizations involved in cultural heritage management and protection (ICCROM, ICOMOS, ICOM, ICA, Blue Shield network, INTERPOL, UNIDROIT, World Customs Organization), law enforcement experts from specialized international police units (France, Italy and Switzerland) and archaeologists of foreign missions working in Syria.

The developed Action Plan aims to address both the present scenario in Syria and the longer term recovery scenario. It focuses on implementing advocacy, capacity building and awareness-raising activities involving all major stakeholders – including the Syrian authorities and Syria’s neighboring countries – to safeguard heritage at risk and improve regional and international cooperation.

The Action Plan foresees the creation of a Syrian Heritage Coordination Group under the auspices of UNESCO, comprised of representatives of International Organizations, NGOs and representatives of international archaeological missions working in Syria.

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