UN programme offers assistance in Protection of Valuable Cultural Property of Iran
Trafficking of cultural property represents a big source of earnings for organized criminal groups. It is also becoming an important source for laundering the proceeds of crime, and as such, it is a problem that affects all countries. Evidence points to the interconnectedness of transnational organized crime, with networks employing the same routes and modus operandi to move cultural property as they use to move drugs, illicit arms and other materials. Trafficking in cultural property not only fuels transnational organized crime, it also destroys the ability to build an understanding of our collective history and causes great damage to cultural identities of the source countries.
The Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) is one of the world's oldest civilizations. Due to its ancient history, large number of cultural sites and geographic location, the country is vulnerable to looting, trafficking, and smuggling of its cultural property, art and antiquities.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) works to utilize the potential of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime to tackle crimes in the area of cultural property and empower States to rally against transnational crime to protect their common cultural heritage. In Iran, (UNODC) has set in motion an innovative pilot initiative to support the Islamic Republic of Iran in protecting its cultural heritage and combating trafficking in cultural property. Covering the areas of legislation, capacity building, and advocacy, this initiative has adopted a multidimensional approach to assisting and empowering the government in its efforts to protect its valuable cultural property. "This is a very promising programme that is already attracting the interest of other member states of the United Nations" said Antonino De Leo, UNODC Resident Representative in Iran. Through this programme, UNODC Iran facilitates exposure of national authorities to best practices in protecting cultural property worldwide, and provides an opportunity for strengthening international cooperation in the area of cultural property. The programme focuses on capacity building in three distinct but interrelated areas: Legislation, Protection and Recovery, and Advocacy.
In November 2012, UNODC organized a study mission for relevant Iranian authorities to visit specialized unit of the Italian (police) Carabinieri (TCP) in Rome; a unit which over time has gained a successful experience in fighting national and international crimes in the area of illegal trafficking of cultural property. A number of high ranking officials, including Mr. Omid Ghanami- director general of legal affairs of ICHHTO and Mr. Ibrahim Naqdi- Director General of legal affairs of Customs Administration-, were part of the delegation visiting Rome.
During the abovementioned mission, the Carabinieri officers discussed, in detail, the structure of their organization and their functions. They emphasized the internal coordination process among all relevant bodies as a significant contributor to their unit's success in protection of Italian cultural heritage. Moreover, they stressed the importance of legal and regulatory infrastructure in providing channels for protection and recovery of cultural property. The experts discussed, databases used and methodologies applied in investigation and recovery of stolen or smuggled artifacts as well as preventative measures put in place in their country for protection of their valuable cultural property.
The Iranian delegation expressed satisfaction with the quality of information provided by the Italian officers and noted that the mission was successful in terms of exposing authorities to best practices as well as facilitating further international and inter-agency cooperation. The delegation was accompanied by the UNODC Iran representative, Mr. Antonino De Leo. The training made it possible for national officials to identify areas in which further technical cooperation with UNODC could be most beneficial in the future. Recognizing and appreciating UNODC's continuous efforts in capacity building activities in combating transnational organized crime and money laundering in the area of cultural property in Iran, participants as well as experts expressed strong interest in further cooperation and collaboration on this topic in the near future.