Press Releases

    For information only - not an official document

    22 September 2016

    Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime:

    Remarks at High-Level Event on "Protecting Cultural Heritage - An Imperative for Humanity"

    New York, 22 September 2016

    NEW YORK/VIENNA, 22 September (UN Information Service) - The increased involvement of terrorist and organized criminal groups in all forms of trafficking in cultural property, its looting and destruction remains a major threat to our shared heritage.

    Protecting cultural heritage from terrorists and criminal traffickers remains a paramount priority for all of us.

    I would like to thank and commend the Governments of Italy and Jordan for steering this global initiative.

    It has helped keep the spotlight on the need to protect cultural heritage, and most importantly, it has led to action-oriented proposals for more effective responses to counter the destruction, looting and trafficking of cultural property.

    Since we met last year, a number of activities have been carried out.

    This includes three expert working group meetings facilitated by INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UNESCO, respectively, to address different aspects of trafficking in cultural property.

    The initiative represents an excellent example of how we can work together towards the common goal of protecting cultural property, in line with our respective mandates and making best use of our comparative advantages.

    For our part, UNODC remains at the disposal of Member States, to help put agreed commitments into practice, to prevent and combat trafficking in cultural property.

    We have no time to lose.

    We need more effective cooperation between all actors, including Member States, the international community, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

    We also need to promote effective crime prevention and criminal justice responses by strengthening national legal frameworks as well as the capacities of law enforcement and prosecution, and promoting international cooperation in the seizure, confiscation and recovery of cultural property.

    Alongside international legal instruments for the protection of cultural heritage in times of peace and armed conflict, as well as relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, we have the UN conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption, and the international convention for suppressing terrorist financing.

    These instruments enjoy near universal membership, and can underpin effective action at national, regional and international levels.

    UNODC, with the support of Italy, and the participation of UNESCO, Interpol and the World Customs Organization (WCO), has developed a Practical Assistance Tool to assist Member States in implementing the International Guidelines for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to stop trafficking in cultural property.

    Another important area we must address is the need for reliable data on the transnational nature of trafficking in cultural property.

    We need intelligence on trafficking routes, extent, patterns and modus operandi as well as financial gains.

    I urge Member States and international organizations to work together to improve data collection and analytical capacity on these issues.

    UNODC, as always, stands ready to support you. Resources permitting, a global study on trafficking in cultural property could help reinforce international community action against this crime.

    We need to go after those involved in trafficking in cultural property with the tools, expertise and experience we have amassed in our efforts to detect and disrupt illicit financial flows, and dismantle organized crime networks.

    Only in this way can we protect our shared cultural heritage.

    Thank you.

    * *** *

    For further information please contact:

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