The movement of cultural property in 2016: regulation, international cooperation and professional diligence for the protection of cultural heritage

30 March 2016 – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

One-day round table focused on the art market and its important role in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property took place at UNESCO Headquarters, Room II

This pioneering event brought together for the first time market stakeholders, including representatives of auction houses and online platforms, museum representatives, cultural heritage experts, specialized intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as well as Member States, to take stock on the situation of the illicit trade in cultural heritage and identify areas to improve synergies and strengthen international cooperation to successfully overcome this worldwide issue.

In partnership with the Conseil des Ventes Volontaires (CVV), the regulatory authority for operators of voluntary sales operators of chattels by public auction in France, this UNESCO event was opened by Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture to UNESCO along with the Catherine Chadelat, President of the CVV. Two experts presented the state of the art market and the state of trafficking in cultural property respectively, before four round table sessions took place with speakers representing both the public and the private sectors.

This is timely considering the conflicts currently ravaging the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, in the Syrian Arab Republic, in Libya and in Yemen, have led to a surge in trafficking in cultural property, mainly archaeological objects, which are subject to large-scale looting and the sale of which are used to finance terrorism, as reflected in Resolution 2199, unanimously adopted by UN Security Council on 12 February 2015. Objects found in various marketplaces highlight the challenges in fighting against illicit trafficking in cultural property. Concerted efforts must be made to remedy this scourge. A balance must be met between the exchange of cultural property, whose circulation is authorized and enriches cultural diversity and knowledge sharing, with the affirmation by States of their cultural identity, and the right to protect certain objects from illegal export.

To achieve this balance, all the market stakeholders must comply with legal and ethical regulations for the protection of heritage and the legal security of transactions. In this context, strengthening cooperation between international and national governmental as well as non-governmental institutions with art market stakeholders (auction houses, antique dealers, gallery owners, brokers, experts, operators of online sales platforms and collectors) is vitally necessary. Raising public awareness, adapting good ethical practices, harmonizing international and national regulations are all avenues that were explored during this round table event to better fight against illicit trafficking in cultural property and to better protect heritage in the future.

Webcast of the Round Table, Paris, UNESCO Headquarters, 30 March 2016, Room II

Morning session: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Afternoon session: 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

(please note that the first couple of minutes only the audio is available)

See also:
Samuel Andrew Hardy: Archaeomafias traffic antiquities as well as drugs
Headline Figures and Misleading Statistics Relating to Antiquities and the Syrian Crisis; International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA)
Background paper
Provenance for cultural objects: Several difficulties and some lines of actions. The issue in Latin American countries, Archaeologist and University Professor, Maria Luz Endere
Information on the “Fondation Gandur pour l’art” (in French only)
Annual Report (in French only)
Rapport annuel 2014, Fondation Gandur pour l’art