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Illicit traffic in cultural goods ranks third in the listing of criminal activities worldwide, following drug and arms trafficking.
Illicit traffic causes significant damage to tangible heritage, particularly in certain regions of the world where the theft and looting are common.
It is not sufficient to simply take emergency action to develop tools designed to better control the art market and made available to law enforcement, experts, and potential purchasers of cultural goods.
This is why the fight against illicit traffic in cultural goods is one of ICOM’s priorities.
Museums must be active players in the fight against illicit traffic and should adopt rules in terms of the acquisition and transfer of collections, according to The ICOM Ethics Code for Museums.
ICOM’s International Committees contribute to this mission by training their personnel to protect heritage, offering tools to make an inventory of their collections and publishing international guidelines of security.
Thanks to its international network of professionals, ICOM is now recognized by many national and international organisations as one of the main players in the fight against illicit traffic in cultural property.
The collaboration between ICOM and its partners includes the sharing of information and experiences, the organisation of awareness-raising campaigns, the development of training programmes for law enforcement authorities, and the dissemination of ICOM publications on illicit traffic to these authorities.
The international awareness-raising efforts made by ICOM and its partners to highlight the importance of protecting the cultural heritage of civilizations against illicit traffic tend to have positive consequences.
The international standard, Object Identification, makes the identification of endangered objects easier.
The One Hundred Missing Objects collection presents a selection of stolen works of art in a given region of the world.
The Red Lists classify the endangered categories of objects in some countries or regions of the world.
These tools are transmitted to the police and customs officials worldwide through INTERPOL and the WCO. They are also distributed to museums, auction houses and art dealers.