Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director


Remarks at the Security Council meeting on "Maintenance of international peace and security: destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict"

by VTC, 24 March 2017


The Security Council's adoption of this new resolution and continued attention has helped to keep the spotlight on the involvement of terrorist groups and organized crime networks in the destruction, looting, trafficking and sale of cultural heritage.

The need for action is more urgent than ever in the face of the mass destruction of heritage sites in Syria and Iraq, and the seizure of thousands of objects near the borders of those countries.

These seizures may represent just the tip of the iceberg.

The destruction of landmarks such as the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the Roman monuments in Palmyra, or shrines and mosques in Tikrit and Mosul are reprehensible attempts to erase history.

But the destruction and looting are also generating profits for terrorists through trafficking, carried out in collusion with organized crime groups.

Those profits fund further acts of terrorism, and enable yet more destruction and looting of cultural sites and archaeological treasures.

This crime cannot be allowed to continue unabated.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has been working in close cooperation with our partners at UNESCO, as well as with INTERPOL, WCO and others, to strengthen national, regional and international responses.

UNODC is providing technical assistance and capacity building, and we are facilitating international cooperation to prevent and combat trafficking in cultural property.

This includes support to implement 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 2014.

Our support to Member States has its firm foundation in the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the UN Convention against Corruption and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

These conventions have near universal membership. They are applicable to organized crime, corruption and terrorism, and they provide the framework the international community needs and can use to prevent, criminalize, investigate and prosecute trafficking in cultural property, as well as its use to finance terrorist groups, and to support return and restitution.

These conventions apply at all times, they represent important foundations in peace-building and post-conflict interventions, and they are our best hope for preventing and countering this crime, and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Full implementation of UNCAC is especially critical, as trafficking relies on corrupt officials and dealers to enable looted items to cross borders and be offered for sale.

This framework, alongside international instruments developed under the auspices of UNESCO and UNIDROIT, can help ensure that national legal frameworks can deal with this crime; that investigative agencies are set up and able to act; that law enforcement and judicial officers have the training they need; that sound border management, as well as customs and anti-money-laundering controls, are in place; that international cooperation is supported; and that public and private actors, including museums, dealers and the tourism sector, take responsibility.

Mr. President,

We have the treaties, tools, guidelines and training materials.

But we need to operationalize commitments more effectively, and we need Member States to provide more resources in the spirit of shared responsibility.

In response, UNODC is seeking to shed more light on the dimensions of this crime, to help the international community better target joint action.

We are pursuing funding for a project, in cooperation with UNESCO and other partners, to undertake a global study to 1) identify the main trafficking routes, modus operandi, extent and patterns involved, and 2) to determine the critical criminal justice challenges countries are facing and provide tailored assistance.

I hope we can rely on your support.

UNODC's experience and research expertise in confronting transnational organized crime, corruption and terrorism remains at your disposal, to stop criminals and terrorists from profiting from the destruction and theft of our shared cultural heritage.

Thank you.