12.12.2012 - UNESCO Havana/Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

UNESCO Regional Seminar on the Fight Against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property for the Caribbean

© Johan Roozer/UNESCO. Presenters of the seminar.

The workshop in Castries, to strengthen the fight against illicit trafficking in Cultural Property in the Caribbean, has ended with great success (3-5 December, 2012). The event was financed by the Director-General’s Emergency Fund, the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands.

It concluded with the commitment from the 25 participants from 14 countries in the region to take concrete actions at legal and operational levels to improve their capacity to fight illicit trafficking in cultural property and to strengthen international cooperation. Some of the agreed actions include the request for the inclusion of an item in relation to the fight against illicit traffic in cultural property on the agenda of the 19th Forum of Ministers of Culture and Officials in Charge of Cultural Policies of Latin America and the Caribbean; the creation or identification of specialised law enforcement services responsible for the fight against illicit traffic of cultural property; as well as the development of training of police, customs officials and all civil and military personnel involved at the front line of the fight against that phenomenon.

The seminar is part of UNESCO's global efforts to fight the illicit traffic of cultural property worldwide in the framework of the Main Line of Action 2 of the UNESCO Major Programme of Culture for the Biennium 2012-2013: "Enhancing the protection of cultural property and fighting against traffic in cultural property through the effective implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), the Convention to protect Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954), the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (1995), and the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001)."

Representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St Maarten, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Saint Lucia exchanged experiences, information and best practices and received targeted legal and operational training and awareness raising activities from institutions such as INTERPOL and UNIDROIT (International Institute for the Unification of Private Law), the World Customs Organization and specialists from UNESCO to help them strengthen joint actions to confront this problem that has, according to INTERPOL, reached similar proportions to the illicit traffic in drugs and arms.

The excellent collaboration between the Saint Lucia National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO offices in Havana and Kingston demonstrated the potential for efficient regional cooperation through these entities.

A Senator, Supreme Court judges, magistrates, government officials, police forces, customs officials and cultural managers participated in this interactive training. The participants worked around four thematic debates. Each debate was introduced and chaired by one of the country's representatives, and its summary was provided by a representative from a different country. The summaries of the debates, including the challenges identified and the recommendations, were presented in the closing session of the workshop for their validation. Those recommendations will also be used as a basis for guidelines to be published in the periodical of the UNESCO Havana Office 'Culture and Development', in a special issue devoted to the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property.

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