23.08.2016 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

Combating Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property

Jakarta, 11-12 August 2016 UNESCO Office Jakarta organised a sub-regional workshop on the effort to combat the illicit trade of cultural heritage in Southeast Asia and to promote the ratification and implementation of the two major international legal frameworks aimed at preventing and combating the trade of stolen and illicit import, export, and transfer of ownership of cultural properties (1970 Convention) and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects.

The 1970 Convention grew out of a pressing need to respond to a troubling trend in the late 1960s that saw cultural artefacts looted or illicitly smuggled out of countries and landed in private collections or national museums either illegally or with their origins obscured. The Convention commits State Parties to institute preventative measures to combat the trend, outline provisions for restitution and strengthen international cooperation. The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention complements the 1970 Convention by covering elements of international private law not regulated by the 1970 Convention and dealing more specifically with the harmonization of legislations in the field of restitution of cultural objects.  

This workshop was organised within the framework of UNESCO project ‘Promoting Intercultural Dialogue through Capacity Building Training for Museum Development at UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia and Afghanistan,’ funded by the Indonesian Government through the Indonesian Funds-in-Trust modality. This two-day workshop highlighted the issues faced by Afghanistan, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor Leste in combating illicit trafficking of cultural heritage. Indonesia and the Philippines are currently considering ratifying the 1970 Convention and 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, whereas Afghanistan has been a State Party to both conventions due to the challenges faced from the destruction of heritage by the Taliban and the loss and theft of cultural materials in conflict situation. This workshop provided a forum for experience sharing on the implementation of both conventions.  

The workshop was opened by Mr Bernards A. Zako, Head of Culture Unit UNESCO Office Jakarta. Mr Etienne Clement, former Director of UNESCO APIA and Deputy Director of UNESCO Bangkok, was the resource person for the workshop. The sessions on day 1 focused on providing an understanding of the 1970 Convention, including national systems in the protection of cultural heritage objects with presentations from each country. Day 2 highlighted the strategy in regional cooperation amongst the participating countries and information sharing in the fight against illicit trafficking.   

A total number of 30 participants were the representatives of museums, foreign affair ministry, cultural ministry, and national commissions for UNESCO in their respective countries. The participants will use the knowledge from this workshop to strengthen capacity within their home institution and also to disseminate good practices, increase specialist knowledge, and create a regional and international network of professionals. 

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