News

Fighting illicit trafficking of cultural property in the Caribbean

What is it that helps us to anchor ourselves in our culture? The answer is as diverse as cultures are: it includes stories, natural specimens, traditions such as dances and traditional artefacts that tell the story of our cultural heritage that create a sense of belonging.
Nevertheless, throughout history, cultural heritage and cultural property around the world and in the Caribbean have been destroyed, looted and illegally traded. This trade in cultural goods ranges from the theft from heritage institutions or private collections to the looting of archaeological sites and the expulsion of artefacts due to wars. Those stolen artefacts are offered to collectors, museums or auction houses and bought for immense sums by collectors, often without the buyers being aware of the criminal act.
With every object, a piece of cultural identity is stolen.

In view of the illicit traffick of cultural property in the Caribbean, UNESCO, in collaboration with its Jamaican National Commission for UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica, invited government authorities, representatives of international organizations, as well as experts from the cultural sector, police and customs officials, lawyers and museum directors from the Caribbean Small Island Developing States to open a dialogue with UNESCO experts and exchange best practices on the means of preventing the illegal import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property and the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

The workshop, held in Kingston, Jamaica, from 2 to 5 March 2020 provided a platform for exchanging practices and identifying measures to help Caribbean Member States make progress in ratifying and implementing the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970 Convention) and the UNIDROIT Convention. 

The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Prohibition of the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was the first international treaty in the fight against the illicit trade in cultural property.
There are currently 140 States Parties to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, including the Caribbean States of Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada and Haiti. Jamaica has not yet signed the Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage. No Caribbean country has yet signed the complementary UNIDROIT Convention of 1995 on Stolen or Illegally Exported Objects, which reinforces the provisions of the previous Convention.

During the three days of the workshop, participants addressed the problem of illegally exported and imported cultural property in their Caribbean Small Island Developing States and received support for the steps to ratify the conventions to protect their cultural heritage.

The cultural property is of great importance to Jamaica's history and they belong to the Jamaican people
said Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica.