Islamic Republic of Iran

Iran reviews good practices in protection of cultural property

International experts estimate that trafficking of cultural property is amongst the main illicit revenues of transnational organized crime networks in the globe, together with illicit trade in drugs and arms, smuggling of goods and human trafficking

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.

For the first time ever, in order to tackle this threat, the United Nations system is joining hands to provide technical cooperation to a member state.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has set in motion an innovative 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.

This initiative, carried out in close collaboration with United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), is part of a series of programmes designed as a collective, coherent and integrated response by the United Nations to national priorities set out in the Fifth Five Year National Development Plan of the I.R of Iran, as well as the aspirations of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

As a component of the capacity building pillar of this joint UN programme, a three-day training course was held at the Cultural Historical Complex of Saad abad in Tehran on 20-22 May 2012 to enhance Iranian practitioners' capacities to protect, investigate and recover cultural properties and stolen artifacts, as well as to increase cooperation with and information exchange both nationally and internationally. Organized by UNODC in cooperation UNESCO and Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), the training brought together national officials from ICHHTO, Interpol Tehran, Customs Organization, Judiciary, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The training was carried out by two experts from a specialized unit of the Italian Carabinieri (TCP), which over time has gained a successful experience in fighting national and international crimes in the area of illegal trafficking of cultural property. The experts discussed several aspects of their everyday activities including relevant legal and regulatory infrastructure, 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

Mr. Omid Ghanami, Director General of ICHHTO in the I.R of Iran, expressed his satisfaction about the fact "that  the issue of combating transnational organized crime and money laundering in the area of cultural property in Iran  is being addressed in a practical manner, for the first time", and thanked UNODC and UNESCO for their efforts in organizing the event. UNODC Iran gave a brief overview of the magnitude and significance of transnational organized crime (TOC) in cultural property in the region and mentioned that countries are strongly encouraged to ratify the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) as one of the most important international instruments in combating TOC.  As a legal tool, the UNTOC will provide member states with regulatory infrastructure required for the fight against all forms of TOC (including those related to cultural property), and it enables the governments to have better international cooperation with other member states in addressing the problem at hand.

The training made it possible for national officials to identify areas in which further technical assistance offered by UNODC could be most beneficial in the future.  Demands were expressed for more specialized training courses for specific units within organizations, in particular, from the Interpol and ICHHTO. As the course final evaluation forms reflect, the participants considered the topics covered in the course informative, useful, and relevant. 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.