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18 February 2013 - Media release

Bhutan hosts international conference on protection of cultural property in Asia co-organized with INTERPOL

THIMPHU, Bhutan – More than 80 participants from various International and Bhutanese government agencies, police and customs services, cultural institutions and the private sector have attended an international conference on protection of cultural property in Asia, jointly organized by Bhutan’s Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs and the INTERPOL General Secretariat.

The three-day conference (16–18 February 2013) covered numerous topics, including national laws and international legal instruments, methods of protecting cultural heritage from natural disasters, as well as law enforcement activities against theft, looting and illicit trafficking.

Experts from INTERPOL’s Works of Art Unit and international partner organizations, such as UNESCO and the World Customs Organization, and specialist police officers from the Asian region and European destination countries shared their experience and expertise with the participants.

The conference agreed on the need for increased information exchange in the Asian region and beyond on the protection of cultural property, and the effective use of INTERPOL’s global tools and services – in particular, regularly contributing to, and systematically searching, its stolen works of art database, which today contains 40,000 records from 125 countries.

Speaking at the conference, Bhutan’s Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, stressed the importance and uniqueness of cultural identity in contributing to the richness of the world’s cultural diversity.

INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services, Jean Michel Louboutin, underlined the role of concerted worldwide cooperation as a requirement for the protection of cultural heritage.

“For law enforcement to meet the challenges of protecting cultural heritage, a global approach is necessary, one that brings together modern techniques to facilitate the identification of stolen property, locate criminals and prevent their plans to cross borders and carry out crimes,” said Mr Louboutin, highlighting INTERPOL’s long-standing commitment to providing assistance to member countries facing crisis situations and instability when cultural property is particularly vulnerable.

The conference was organized in the National Convention Center in Thimphu with a substantial financial support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.