25.04.2018 - UNESCO Montevideo Office

Argentina, INTERPOL and UNESCO hold the First Conference of the Americas on the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property

The first Conference of the Americas on the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property, organized by INTERPOL International in conjunction with UNESCO and the Argentinian government, was held in Buenos Aires from 17 to 20 April 2018.

Since 2015, the UNESCO Office in Montevideo has been organizing, together with the Ministry of Security of the Nation (Argentina), the Federal Police, INTERPOL Argentina and the Movable Heritage and Museums Section, annual training courses for security forces in the region and other actors involved in the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property.

This year, the proposal takes on new dimensions as INTERPOL International joined the organizing group of the First Conference of the Americas on the Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property.

More than 130 participants from numerous institutions attended the event, including representatives of Argentine Customs, the Naval Prefecture, the National Gendarmerie, representatives of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Judicial Branch, as well as security forces from other countries in the region (Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru).

Key institutions at the national level contributed with their expertise in this Conference, such as the Ministry of Culture of the Nation, the Institute of Anthropology and Latin American Thought, the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences of B Rivadavia, the General Directorate of Customs-AFIP, the General Archive of the Nation and the Museum of the Mint.  

The Coordinator of the Works of Art Unit of the INTERPOL General Secretariat, Mr. Corrado Catesi, Ms. France Desmarais of ICOM International and Mr. Edouard Planche of the UNESCO Museums and Movable Heritage Section (Paris) analyzed the situation of illicit trafficking in the Americas and new routes of trafficking in cultural property during the four days of the conference.

They also interacted with the participants in order to identify the prevention and cooperation measures that should be strengthened in the future for a more effective implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, ratified by 24 countries of the region and 136 countries of the world, and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, ratified by 11 States of South and Central America and 42 States in the world.

Mr. Angelo Felicetti, expert of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the Security Council Committee (UNSMT), presented the follow-up results achieved.

In the subregion, the countries of the Southern Cone are giving increasing importance to this phenomenon, which has moved from being local to operating on an international scale.

Uruguay and Paraguay have had National Committees for the Prevention and Fight against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property since last year and will receive capacity-building support from UNESCO this year.

In this instance, the Minister of Security of Argentina, Ms. Patricia Bullrich, and the Chief of the Argentine Federal Police, Mr. Néstor Roncaglia, welcomed the excellent results of the work carried out in recent months by the Federal Police's Heritage Protection Directorate, which was able to resolve important cases of illicit trafficking in art property and archaeological artefacts.

Likewise, the Argentinian judicial authority, together with the Commissioner Inspector Marcelo El Haibe of the Federal Police, shared the successful results of Federal Court No. 1 in San Isidro, which last year allowed the seizure of thirty-eight 3,000 years Egyptian old mummies of animals, and archaeological pieces of Chinese origin included in the Red List of Chinese Cultural Objects, among others.

Within the framework of the last working session of the Conference, the exhibition "FALSOS" was organized on Friday 20 April at the UNESCO Villa Ocampo Observatory. It consists of an exceptional selection of 30 false works from the 230 counterfeit paintings (by prestigious national and international painters) recently seized by the Argentine Federal Police and INTERPOL. 

The conclusions of the Conference stressed the need for further cooperation in future training and awareness-raising activities, together with INTERPOL and specialized bodies such as the Colbert Committee (France), in order to combat more effectively the phenomenon of counterfeiting of objects, which accounts for 2.5% of global trade and over USD 461 billion worldwide.

The outcome of these exchanges will also serve as an example of a regional module for the preparation of the meeting of the Subsidiary Committee of the Meeting of State parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention to be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 28 to 29 May 2018.  

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