Strengthening partnerships to protect against illicit trafficking of SADC’s works of art

SADC Police Officers responsible for intellectual property, works of art and cultural heritage met virtually on 11 November 2020 to share country experiences and come up with best practices as well as develop a strategy to protect against illicit trafficking of works of art/cultural property in the region.

The Southern African Regional Bureau for Interpol in partnership with UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa and Africa Region Intellectual Property Organisation organised the meeting as part the 50th Anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property celebrations.

The General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Convention on 14 November 1970 and it provides an international framework for the prevention of theft and looting and the return and restitution of stolen cultural property, in parallel with other advances in the fight against illicit trafficking.

Speaking during the virtual meeting, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Communication and Information in Southern Africa, Al Amin Yusuph reiterated UNESCO’s commitment to the protection of cultural property.

Opening the meeting, Ms. Jeannette Haifuki from the Interpol Regional Bureau based in Harare said the COVID-19 pandemic had provided incentives and opportunities for criminal groups to exploit Intellectual Property, Works of Art and Cultural Heritage, hence creating the need to identify new trends, possible syndicates and strengthen partnership to prevent illicit trafficking.

The Head of the INTERPOL Regional Bureau for Southern Africa and coordinator of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCCO) Mr Nawa Mubita encouraged Member States and stakeholders to continue working together in supporting law enforcement agents, capacity building and sensitising national focal points of contact on the best ways to combat illicit trafficking of cultural property. He applauded UNESCO for its support on the development of Standards Operating Procedures (SOPs) on the Works of Arts which were adopted by the SADC Police Chiefs in 2019.

Ms Mulekeni Ngulube, UNESCO Culture Consultant emphasised the need for strong partnerships and collaboration between UNESCO, Interpol, SARPCCO, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), ARIPO, SARPCCO, World Customs Organization (WCO) and other like-minded organisations in supporting the implementation of the Standard Operating Procedures.