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    UNIS/CP/991
    21 September 2017

    Remarks of the Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov:

    High-Level meeting on "Protecting cultural heritage from terrorism and mass atrocities"

    New York, 21 September 2017

    NEW YORK/VIENNA, 21 September (UN Information Service) - I commend the European Union, Italy and partners for organizing this important event, and for their continued commitment to raising awareness of the need to protect cultural heritage from terrorists and traffickers.

    The destruction, looting, and trafficking of cultural property is a concern for many governments, in different parts of the world.

    As we have so tragically witnessed, cultural heritage is particularly vulnerable in areas of armed conflict.

    In Iraq, Mali and Syria, armed and terrorist groups have not only directed attacks against monuments and buildings of historical importance.

    They have sought to maximize their exploitation of local resources, including through the systematic looting of archaeological sites.

    They have made use of the trafficking methods and routes employed by organized criminal groups to move these cultural goods, raising funds to finance further activities.

    The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has been working in close cooperation with our partners at UNESCO [the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], as well as with INTERPOL, WCO [World Customs Organization] and others, to strengthen national, regional and international responses to these crimes.

    We are helping to implement Security Council resolution 2347 adopted in March, the first resolution to address destruction and trafficking of cultural objects during armed conflicts, notably by terrorist groups.

    Our technical assistance and capacity building are based on the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the UN Convention against Corruption and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which have near universal membership, and represent important foundations in peace-building and post-conflict interventions.

    The tools provided by this agreed framework can help prevent, criminalize, investigate and prosecute trafficking in cultural property, as well as its use to finance terrorist groups, and support return and restitution.

    As this event makes clear, the destruction and trafficking of cultural property may be linked with grave crimes under international law, including ethnic cleansing, serious violations of the laws of armed conflict and crimes against humanity.

    While safeguarding civilians must remain the priority, there is a clear and urgent need to step up international cooperation to protect immovable and movable cultural heritage during armed conflict.

    A key part of this response must target illicit trafficking in cultural goods and its use for terrorist financing, in all regions.

    The international community, working with the private sector, the banking sector, the art world and consumers, can help ensure that looted cultural property is properly identified, and that criminal justice responses prevent traffickers and terrorists from enjoying their ill-gotten gains, and make them answer for their crimes. 

    UNODC remains at ever at your disposal.

    Thank you.

    * *** *

    For further information, please contact:

    David Dadge
    Spokesperson, UNODC
    Telephone: (+43 1) 26060-5629
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
    Email: david.dadge[at]unvienna.org