Mexico City, 14 November 2023 – UNESCO and UNODC in Mexico launched a new campaign called ‘Protect your legacy’, urging illicit trafficking in cultural property to be recognized as a global security concern.
The initiative seeks to raise awareness of the implications and risks of this crime at the local level and discuss ways to prevent and combat it in order to safeguard cultural heritage.
Illicit trafficking in cultural property refers to the illegal removal, destruction or transfer of cultural property such as monumental, archeological, anthropological, artistic and documentary pieces or their parts.
It can take place in legal and illegal markets, in archaeological sites, museums or galleries, as well as in religious sites and on digital platforms.
This crime deprives communities of access to valuable information and affects sustainable development in fields such as tourism and employment, access to education, and the exercise of cultural rights, among others.
Mexico investigates, safeguards and protects more than 82,300 historic monuments, architectural sites and real estate hat are susceptible to illicit trafficking.
The 1970 UNESCO Convention, with 143 States Parties, continues to serve as a reference for global cooperation against illicit trafficking in cultural property. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) states that this crime is linked to the funding of terrorism, organized crime, illicit drug and firearms trafficking, money laundering and corruption.
There are no exact figures on this crime due to the difficulty of uncovering and monitoring these illicit activities, however:
While launching the campaign, the UNODC Representative in Mexico, Mr. Kristian Hölge, noted that: "Stealing from the past is destroying our future. Historical and cultural heritage is a unique testimony of the identity of peoples. Its protection is essential, especially for developing countries, which are among the most affected by this crime.”
UNESCO's Representative in Mexico, Mr. Andrés Morales, added that UNESCO"continues to support countries in formulating more comprehensive mechanisms, including the protection of undiscovered property. These initiatives respond to the international call embodied in the MONDIACULT 2022 Declaration."
The month of November, and especially the International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property on the 14th, represents an opportunity for government, civil society organizations, museums and cultural spaces, as well as the media, to join the "Protect your legacy" campaign.