Capacity-building training courses and awareness-raising activities on the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property in Egypt

Broken display case, Egyptian Museum, March 2011 © INTERPOL

Recent events in Egypt have shown that there is a particular need to enhance the capacities of Egyptian heritage professionals to better protect Egypt’s cultural legacy and to focus on preventive action as regards the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

UNESCO, with the co-funding from the Federal Office for Culture of Switzerland, is implementing a series of comprehensive projects aimed at building the capacities of Egyptian heritage professionals through a range of targeted legal and operational trainings and awareness raising activities. The training courses will enable the Egyptian beneficiaries to respond rapidly and effectively when addressing cases of illicit trafficking.

Once equipped with the tools, skills and knowledge provided by the training courses, the beneficiaries will be:

  • better prepared to develop the necessary preventive measures to catalogue and protect cultural objects of an archaeological or non-archaeological nature,
  • ready to create the conditions necessary for an effective and rapid response (involving different stakeholders) against illicit trafficking at the local, national and regional level,
  • aware about the potential threat, especially from local communities, but also from tourists.

To ensure a sound implementation of UNESCO’s 1970 and UNIDROIT's 1995 Conventions, the training courses will emphasize the need for appropriate national legislation and international cooperation, as well as preventive measures such as keeping inventories up to date, and keeping cultural objects in a secure environment.

The training courses adopt an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach. Accordingly, all stakeholders, including national decision-makers, lawyers, museum staff, site managers, customs officials, police officers, religious authorities and other heritage professionals, all forge a common vision on measures to fight illicit trafficking and facilitate restitutions at all levels.

The participation of women is strongly encouraged. All institutions involved are requested to assign experts and professionals with strong communication skills, who will be able to act as future trainers to their peers.

An educational programme targeted at local communities and youth will also complement the training courses. In partnership with the Ministry of Education and schools’ networks, young people will be invited to get involved in safeguarding Egypt’s heritage. Through this programme, UNESCO hopes to raise awareness of the damages done by looting of cultural heritage, and thus on the Egyptian identity.

UNESCO continues to rely on the input and expertise of its principal partners in this field, namely UNIDROIT, INTERPOL, UNODC, WCO and ICOM. The first series of training courses and awareness-raising activities on the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property in Egypt are expected to start in November 2013.

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