Prevention of and combat against illicit traffic of cultural heritage in Southern Africa

The Prevention and Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property resides in the core of the safeguarding processes of cultural heritage and its development. Cultural goods are not goods like any other. They cannot be perceived only for their scientific or market value. They are carriers of history and indeed of identity. Therefore, the looting and illicit traffic of these properties affect deeply cohesion of individuals and communities to whom they belong.

The Conventions (1970 and UNIDROIT) are the first defence in the battle against the international illicit traffic in cultural property. Art trading states, art importing countries and the art exporting states, by adopting and ratifying relevant conventions promote change of attitude which is a departure point in the fight by various means in particular legislative, educational, administrative, and applied to a wide variety of cultural objects including those which are of importance for archaeology, history, art, literature and science.

On 24 September 2010, in Gaborone, the idea started forming of a creation of a “forum and cross-border linkages for heritage institutions and organizations to foster the protection, preservation and presentation of the rich and diverse heritage of the region for development and to sustenance of identities among communities”. At that very day, a group of Southern African professionals agreed to call it SADC HA (Heritage Association).

The discussions among involved professionals defined SADCHA's multifaceted objective that can be summarised in three points:

1. to build genuine bridges within the civil society, among artists, intellectuals, teachers and creators, with a view to exchanging new ideas and visions;

2. to support regional think tanks, create innovative networks and platforms that span the region;

3. to facilitate dynamic participation of professionals, civil society and political decision makers in urban, economic and social development projects, based on cultural resources.

Indeed, in March 2015 (see below) SADCHA inaugural workshop indeed took place in GAborone, Botswana.

 

Some other milestone meetings and their respective decisions/recommendations which guided us:

 

Windhoek, Namibia, 14 to 15th September 2011

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1.      Raise awareness on the 1970 UNESCO and 1995 UNIDROIT Conventions in southern African region

2.      Follow-up to be undertaken to ensure that relevant instruments were formally deposited with the Depository.

3.      Countries to continue active participation in the process to combat and prevent illicit traffic of cultural goods.  All countries agreed on the need for improvement of the national legal provisions helping combat against illicit traffic of cultural goods.

4.      Promotion of Object ID principle and ongoing capacity building programmes on documentation and inventorying of collections.

5.      Training and promotion of cooperation on combating and prevention among law enforcement agencies and heritage officers.

6.      Review of security measures in terms of physical and or electronic surveillance equipment.

7.      Local communities to be involved in the process and awareness to be raised among them in order to add to the preventive measures against the looting of cultural objects.

8.      Regional collaboration should be established and enhanced. Revival of SADC Desk on Culture a necessity.

9.      UNESCO Harare and Windhoek Offices committed themselves to organise, to the extent possible, annual meetings for the coordination and progress on the prevention of illicit trafficking. 

 

Gaborone, Botswana 5-7 November 2012

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The following points were stressed as crucial in order to stay ahead of the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property.

1.      The need to expedite the ratification of relevant international conventions, the 1970 UNESCO,   1995 UNIDROIT and the 1954 Hague Conventions

2.      Adoption of comprehensive documentation methods for national heritage assets

3.      Strengthening of stakeholder networks

4.      Involvement of legal professionals in rationalising laws towards ratification

5.      Development of national cultural databases

6.      Strengthening of security measures at museums and cultural heritage sites

7.      Closer regional cooperation and collaboration through SADCHA

8.      Concerted efforts to create public awareness.

 

 

Gaborone, Botswana 24 – 26 March 2015

Full report of this meeting is available HERE.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The following points were stressed as crucial for good advancement of SADCHA:

1.      A new SADCHA executive committee was elected.

2.      A plea was made via a letter to the Director of the Botswana National Museum Mr Phorano to appoint an employee to oversee the office.

3.      A letter was written to the SADC headquarters to request their recognition of SADCHA.

4.      Closer regional cooperation and collaboration through SADCHA by SADC countries.

5.      Letter written to ICOM for affiliation.

 

 The following points were stressed as crucial in order to stay ahead of the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property.

1.      The need to expedite the ratification of relevant international conventions, the 1970 UNESCO,   1995 UNIDROIT and the 1954 Hague Conventions

2.      Adoption of comprehensive documentation methods for national heritage assets

3.      Strengthening of stakeholder networks

4.      Involvement of legal professionals in rationalising laws towards ratification

5.      Development of national cultural databases

6.      Strengthening of security measures at museums and cultural heritage sites

7.      Concerted efforts to create public awareness.

8.      Adoption of model Object IDs

9.      Engagement of cultural experts in monitoring sales of cultural objects online

 

 

1970 Convention ratification situation in the sub-region (18 January 2016)

COUNTRY

1970 CONVENTION

1995 UNIDROIT

Convention

BOTSWANA

N

 

LESOTHO

17/07/2013

R

 

MALAWI

N

 

MOZAMBIQUE

N

 

NAMIBIA

N

 

SOUTH AFRICA

18/12/2003

A

 

SWAZILAND

30/10/2012

A

 

ZAMBIA

21/06/1985

R

 

ZIMBABWE

30/05/2006

A

24/06/1995

R

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