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September 29, 2021

Focus UNESCO-ICOM Workshop: Fighting Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property

Sponsored by the European Union

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ICOM, in close partnership with UNESCO and with the support of the European Union, is delighted to present a capacity-development workshop for European Union (EU) Member States’ museums and cultural heritage professionals on the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property on the mornings of the 4 and 5 October 2021.

This online two-day event will see museum experts, and heritage and non-heritage professionals alike, share their experiences of protecting heritage and their work to restrain the illicit trafficking of cultural property across Europe and further afield. Across four panels, topics will range from the role of collection management and preventive conservation in the protection of cultural heritage; best practice and tools to promote and encourage due diligence and provenance research for objects at risk; cooperation between museums and law enforcement agencies to protect and regulate the movement of heritage; and the importance of international cooperation, education and awareness raising to the problems cause by illicit trafficking.

Every day, somewhere in the world, a cultural object is looted, stolen from a museum, illegally excavated, or smuggled across a border. EU Member States are at the same time countries of source and transit, as well as among the key destination countries for cultural objects trafficked from areas all over the globe. Next to the evolving body of national legislations, EU-wide directives and regulations have been put in place to govern the movement of cultural goods, and many Member States have established specialized enforcement authorities to investigate and counter illicit trade.

Cooperation is key to addressing the scourge of illicitly trafficked cultural property, and museums and cultural heritage professionals have an important role to play, along with law enforcement agencies, customs services, and other stakeholders. This ICOM-UNESCO workshop intends to foster the network of museums and cultural heritage experts, raise awareness and fight against the illicit trade of cultural property across the EU and beyond.

Indeed, the timing of this workshop is poignant: in the coming weeks ICOM will launch its Red List for Southeast European Cultural Objects at Risk, the first Red List to focus on the European continent; UNESCO is currently engaged in a joint EU project involving the EU’s Member States, the Western Balkans, and the EU’s ENI South Partner countries on illicit trafficking; and the European Commission is preparing for the implementation of the new rules which will regulate the import of cultural goods into the EU. Transnational actions like these are vital if we are to have any success in tackling illicit trafficking.

ICOM, UNESCO and the EU look forward to welcoming all those with an interest in protecting heritage, from across Europe, to the online proceedings on Zoom/YouTube. This workshop promises to be an excellent opportunity to learn how to protect all cultural heritage across the European continent.

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