On 14 November 2020, UNESCO celebrates the first International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property, adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 2019. This international day is particularly symbolic, since this year we are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Convention.
In commemorating this new international day, UNESCO aims to raise awareness about illicit trafficking and calls on the international community to reinforce the fight against this scourge and to highlight the importance of this issue, because looting, selling, or buying cultural property resulting from illicit trafficking contributes to dispossessing peoples of their heritage, their history, their identity and therefore their future.
Illicit trafficking in cultural property affects all regions of the world. UNESCO continues to strengthen its efforts to combat this scourge, with its Member States, its main partners – INTERPOL, ICOM, WCO, UNIDROIT, the Italian Carabinieri, and many others – and civil society. The protection of cultural heritage and the fight against illicit trafficking concerns us all.
The last five decades have seen an exponential increase in the illicit traffic of cultural property. The pandemic has made cultural heritage even more fragile, affecting the monitoring of archaeological sites and making them more vulnerable to illegal excavations. In addition, online illicit trafficking in cultural property has increased dramatically.
Multilateralism, the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against illicit trafficking will be at the heart of the international conference, which will take place online from 16 to 18 November. The conference is organized by the German Federal Foreign Office in partnership with UNESCO, the European Commission and the Council of Europe.