UNODC Iran Continues to Support the Protection of Cultural Property
15 September 2013 - Trafficking in cultural property is an emerging form of organized crime which has become a matter of growing concern in recent years. A highly lucrative business, it represents a major source of illicit revenue for organized criminal groups, as well as an important source for laundering the proceeds of crime. The consequences of this crime for the national and cultural identity of states and the world's cultural heritage at large are grave, calling for a serious and strong international criminal justice response, commensurate to the increasing prevalence of trafficking in cultural property.
With its ancient civilization and rich culture, the Islamic Republic of Iran is vulnerable to the theft and trafficking of its cultural property, art and antiquities, in spite of the efforts exerted by the relevant national authorities to counter this phenomenon. This brings to the fore the role of UNODC, which has launched an innovative initiative to support the Islamic Republic of Iran in countering trafficking in cultural property and protecting its cultural heritage. The initiative, started in 2011, aims to enhance national capacities in countering trafficking in cultural properties, art and antiquities, through the provision of technical legislative assistance based on the relevant international instruments and United Nations Standards, in particular the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC); awareness-raising and advocacy; and the strengthening of international cooperation in the protection and recovery of cultural property.
Under this initiative, UNODC Iran organized a workshop on the "Registration and Recovery of Cultural Property" in Tehran on 8 - 9 July 2013. The two-day workshop was structured around a series of events with one overarching goal: empowerment of the key stakeholders involved in the struggle against cultural property trafficking in Iran through further capacity-building and knowledge on the criminal aspects of the trade in cultural objects.
Acting as the main facilitator, UNODC Iran brought together a symposium of the relevant national bodies, including the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Tehran, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Customs Organization, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Iran Cultural, Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO). The event provided the national counterparts with a platform to review and discuss the mechanisms and legal and institutional provisions for the registration and recovery of cultural property, and to benefit from the information and experiences presented by two leading international experts in the field of cultural property and protection of the cultural heritage from Italy and Turkey.
The technical aspects of the workshop offered a range of topics to the participants including the review of the legal status of, and mechanisms for, the registration of movable cultural and historic properties in Iran. This was complemented with an introduction to Iran's Comprehensive Software Network for the Registration of Cultural Property. The foreign experts also briefed the session on the legal provisions and the institutional mechanisms for the registration of cultural property in Italy and Turkey.
The event was also an opportunity to provide the participants with international experiences and lessons learned through case studies of recovery of cultural items by Iranian, Italian and Turkish authorities. The possibilities of expanding cooperation between Iran and the international community and relevant institutions were further explored.