UNESCO to convenes experts on combatting illicit trafficking of cultural property during COVID-19 – illegal excavations and online trade

On 26 June 2020, UNESCO will gather together on-line experts to discuss illicit trafficking of cultural property during COVID-19, particularly illegal excavations and online trade.  Faced with an unprecedented global health crisis worldwide, a vast majority of countries enforced quarantine and lockdown measures to combat COVID-19. The focus on sanitary measures and restriction of movement reduced the surveillance of cultural sites and museums, which lead to increased illegal excavations of archaeological sites and trafficking activities including online transactions.

In the framework of the celebration in 2020 of 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, UNESCO has organized the online meeting to discuss increased looting and illicit trafficking in cultural property during the coronavirus lockdown, in order to explore measures to be undertaken in support of countries’ efforts to protect their cultural property.

The expert meeting aims to understand how the illicit trafficking of cultural property and its online sales are organized during the current COVID-19 crisis, and identify the measures taken by the different actors to reinforce the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property and their contribution to preventing this scourge.

Opened and moderated by Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, two respective panels of international experts on illegal excavations and online trade will share their views and experiences, and will prioritize measures to be undertaken. Amongst panellist will be Katie A. Paul and Amr  Al Azm (ATHAR Project), Corrado Catesi (INTERPOL), Vincent Michel (University of Poitiers), Mariya Polner (World Customs Organization) Eva Martinez (Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, Honduras), and Christos Tsirogannis (University of Aarhus, Denmark), among other experts.

This online meeting targets cultural heritage and museum professionals as well as a general audience in order to raise awareness on the issue of illicit excavations and trade of cultural property.

The debate takes place online on 26 June 2020 from 2:30pm to 5:30pm (Paris time) online (ZOOM) and transmitted live on YouTube.

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