Fighting against the illicit trafficking of cultural property

Timbuktu ©UNESCO/F. Bandarin

West African cultural heritage, and more particularly in the Sahel region, is facing numerous threats linked to a context of crisis, including the illicit trafficking of cultural property, which has increased since the Malian crisis in 2012. For several decades, to face this challenge, UNESCO has been actively working on providing member States with a standard-setting instrument ensuring heritage’s protection, and supporting them in the development of institutional, human and financial resources.

In recent years the sub-region has suffered from an increase of the illicit trafficking of its cultural property, a phenomenon of such scope that it is ranked in second position just behind drugs and arms trafficking.

As a platform for the exchange, UNESCO invites Member States, and specialized entities, to engage in a strategic dialogue based on the 1970 Convention, strengthened by the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, to stop illicit importations, exportations and ownership transfers of cultural property. Thus, as required by the Target 16.4 of the SDGs : “By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime”, the UNESCO Dakar Office carries out capacity building and awareness raising activities, in partnership with several partners to facilitate the implementation of a sub-regional cooperation.

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