INTERPOL Chief pledges continued support to protect cultural heritage
UNITED NATIONS, New York – Addressing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on combating the destruction, smuggling and theft of cultural heritage, INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock reaffirmed the Organization’s commitment to tackle these crimes.
The meeting, convened by the Permanent Missions of Jordan and France to the United Nations, co-presidents of the Security Council, was an opportunity for member countries to discuss and identify innovative and practical ways to protect and preserve cultural heritage following the recent adoption of UNSC Resolution 2199 (2015).
“In the eyes of criminals, cultural heritage often stands as an easy target,” said Secretary General Stock.
“The current situation in Syria and Iraq presents a significant challenge as sites vulnerable to destruction are often out of effective government control and illicit excavations dominate the picture,” added Mr Stock.
The INTERPOL Chief said lessons had been learned from the first Gulf War, after which just one item was inserted into the world police body’s Stolen Works of Art database. The implementation of UNSC Resolution 1483 (2003) resulted in the successful collection of around one quarter of the 2,700 Iraqi records now contained in the database.
In the context of UNSC Resolution 2199 (2015) information on more than 1,300 items removed from the Deir Atiyah Museum and other sites in Syria is currently being added to the database to be made available to more than 2,000 users from law enforcement, customs, partner organizations and private dealers.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova highlighted the extent of the tragedy underway, especially the loss of humanity’s millennial history.
“Heritage must be at the frontline of peace building, as a way to build back dignity and confidence. It is imperative to curb radicalization and counter the narrative of hatred and division. The fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects must be strengthened throughout the world,” said Director General Bokova.
Previous successes include the deployment of a multi-disciplinary team to Iraq under the auspices of UNESCO and the creation of a dedicated INTERPOL Tracking Task Force bringing together key authorities for direct information exchange.
Raising public awareness and support through vehicles such as the UNESCO #unite4heritage campaign, which is backed by INTERPOL, and also engaging Internet Service Providers and online marketplaces to report suspected sales of Syrian and Iraqi cultural heritage were also highlighted as ways to strengthen the fight against illicit trafficking.