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    27 September 2015

    Remarks of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, at the High Level event on protecting cultural heritage

    NEW YORK/VIENNA, 27 September (UN Information Service) - Allow me to begin by thanking the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Jordan and Italy, as well as our partners at UNESCO and INTERPOL.

    We at UNODC are honoured to be part of this initiative to protect cultural heritage and mobilize the international community against the trafficking and destruction of cultural property by terrorist groups and organized criminal networks. 

    In recent years, the world has witnessed the growing involvement of violent extremists and terrorists in the destruction, looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property, in complicity with organized criminal groups.

    Trafficking in cultural property represents a source of enormous illicit profits.

    UNODC has reported that proceeds of transnational crime related to art and cultural property may amount to some 0.8 per cent of all illicit financial flows, between 3.4 and 6.3 billion dollars.

    Trafficking in cultural property is also used to launder the proceeds of crime, and has been identified as a source of financing for terrorist acts.

    This is clearly an urgent threat requiring the attention of the international community.

    This was recognized by the UN Security Council in resolution 2199, which requests all Member States to take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property, and called on international organizations to provide support.

    We already have a strong basis for joint action.

    Alongside relevant international instruments adopted under the auspices of UNESCO and UNIDROIT, there are the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the Convention against Corruption and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

    These conventions enjoy near universal membership.

    I would also like to highlight the International Guidelines for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice with Respect to Trafficking in Cultural Property and Other Related Offences, adopted by the General Assembly last December.

    These guidelines are the first to set out standards for the criminalization of trafficking in cultural property, in addition to important provisions related to prevention activities, as well as judicial and law enforcement cooperation.

    A comprehensive response requires measures to stop looted cultural property from being exported from the affected countries, and to prevent it from being sold onwards.

    UNODC is committed to supporting Member States in strengthening prevention and criminal justice responses, through technical assistance to reinforce legal frameworks, capacity building for law enforcement and judicial authorities, and measures to promote international cooperation.

    In addition to targeting organized criminal groups, such action must also address legal persons that are involved in the commission of offences related to trafficking in cultural property, such as auction houses, and establish their liability.

    We are working with countries in the Middle East and North Africa and elsewhere to strengthen cross-border cooperation to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts, including through illicit trafficking in cultural property.

    We have collected a database of case law decisions on cultural property, and we maintain a directory of national authorities to facilitate international cooperation under the UNTOC.

    Moreover, we are currently developing a practical assistance tool to support implementation of the Guidelines, as requested by the General Assembly.

    The theft and trafficking of cultural property and other items of archaeological and historical significance represent a profound and often irreparable loss, one that we must work together to stop before it is too late.

    Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.

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    For further information contact:

    David Dadge
    Spokesperson, UNODC
    Phone: (+43 1) 26060-5629
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
    Email: david.dadge[at]