For information only - not an official document

5 November 2015

Prepared for delivery

Remarks of the UNODC Director of the Division for Treaty Affairs, John Brandolino:

Special event: Corruption Challenges to the Looting, Trafficking and Sale of Cultural Heritage

St. Petersburg, 5 November 2015

ST. PETERSBURG/VIENNA, 5 November 2015 (UN Information Service) - I am pleased to be here today, at this important event. Trafficking in cultural property and the need to protect our common cultural heritage have increasingly come to the attention of the international community. There is also greater awareness now that trafficking in cultural property is not a victimless crime - it affects communities and humanity as a whole.

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.

The challenges presented by this phenomenon are complex and multi-faceted, and clearly require responses at the national level as well as strong regional and international cooperation to meet them.

We at UNODC are honoured to be part of the global initiative launched in New York on 27 September in the margins of the opening of the general assembly to protect cultural heritage and mobilize the international community against the trafficking and destruction of cultural property by terrorist groups and organized criminal networks, under the initiative of the governments of Italy and Jordan, along with our partners UNESCO and Interpol.

We are equally pleased to welcome their co-sponsorship of this important event focusing on the corruption challenges that facilitate the trafficking and sale of cultural property, and very warmly welcome the participation of UNDP and the UN global compact to this discussion as well.

There is also growing awareness and evidence of the increasing involvement of organized criminal groups in the looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property. Such groups are also often involved in other types of crimes, such as illicit arms and drug trafficking, money-laundering, corruption and terrorism financing.

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 every year.

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.

There have been some relatively recent pronouncements on this subject by the UN community.   

First these challenges were addressed during the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held in Doha in April, and reflected in the Doha Declaration, adopted unanimously, which called on member states "to continue to support the implementation of capacity-building programmes and training for criminal justice officials aimed at preventing and countering terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, in line with human rights and fundamental freedoms, including with regard to international cooperation in criminal matters, the financing of terrorism [and] the destruction of cultural heritage by terrorists."

Second the Security Council recognized the close link of the illicit trafficking in cultural property with the financing of terrorist activities of ISIL, active in Syria and Iraq, in SC Resolution 2199, of February 2015. This relationship between terrorist financing and trafficking in cultural artefacts had been previously acknowledged by the Security Council in its Resolution 2195. Resolution 2195 also referred to the need for member states to strengthen border management to prevent the movement of terrorists, including those benefiting from transnational organized crime; to fight against corruption, money-laundering and illicit financial flows; and to improve international and regional cooperation.

The UN and international community also have some existing tools and frameworks available.

First I would mention the Hague convention of 1954, the additional protocols to the Geneva conventions, as well as all the UNESCO and UNIDROIT conventions on protecting cultural property.

Second, there is of course the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, as they apply to the commission of national and cross-border offences. As organized criminal groups are frequently involved, the framework for law enforcement action, international cooperation and criminalization provided by these conventions, can be of particular use to states.

Corruption, in particular, is a critical component in the looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property given the financial sums involved and the facilitation potential that the bribing of public officials may have on the work of guards of archaeological sites, customs and other law enforcement officials.

Third - the international community has agreed in January of this year on a very relevant tool - the international guidelines for crime prevention and criminal justice responses with respect to trafficking in cultural property and other related offences, adopted by the General Assembly in its Resolution 69/196. UNODC facilitated the process for the adoption of this document, which reflects an intergovernmental consensus, and it is important that we all draw on these international guidelines in our crime prevention and criminal justice responses to this phenomenon.

I mention these pronouncements and frameworks, as I am sure they will be part of our panel discussions today.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise how important it is that all of us, all the organizations and national authorities represented in this room, work together in addressing the challenges posed by the looting, trafficking and sale of cultural property.

UNODC is honoured to have organized this event, together with the republic of Italy, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, UNESCO and Interpol, and we look forward to contributing to what, I am certain, will be very fruitful discussions.

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For further information contact:

Martin Nesirky
Spokesperson for the 6 th Session of the Conference of the States Parties
to the UN Convention against Corruption
Mobile: +7 921 437 8894 or +43 699 1459 5676
Email: martin.nesirky[at]


David Dadge
Spokesperson, UNODC
Mobile: +43 699 1459 5629
Email: david.dadge[at]

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