NAM’s concern over trafficking in cultural property

Transnational organized crime is often associated with cross-border activities such as trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings. This link is often overlooked, however, when it comes to the issue of trafficking in cultural property. Cultural property is often taken from private museums, collectors, churches and archaeological sites—both discovered and undiscovered—and then sold on the black market. Of these objects, only about five to ten percent are ever recovered, and on average the time for recovery takes more than thirteen years. The illicit trade in cultural property continues to increase and expand because of steady demand. Further, political instability, inconsistent laws regarding ownership and repatriation of cultural property, improved methods of transportation, and permeable borders allow illegal trafficking to flourish.
Despite well-established agreements and legislation by bodies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to curb the buying and selling of illegally excavated artifacts, it is only in recent years that international efforts to tackle the role of the organized criminal networks that perpetrate this crime have come to the fore. Non-Aligned Movement has been at the fore in expressing their concern over the loss, destruction and removal of the cultural property and the increased involvement of organized criminal groups in trafficking in looted, stolen or smuggled cultural property. At the Tehran summit as well as the Algiers ministerial summit of 2014. NAM underlined the importance of national, regional and international initiatives for the protection of cultural property, in particular the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and its Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation, and stressed the importance of fostering international law enforcement cooperation to combat trafficking in cultural property and in particular the need to exchange information and experiences in order to operate in a more effective way.
NAM has expressed concern about the growing involvement of organized criminal and terrorist groups in all forms and aspects of trafficking in cultural property and related offence. The movement has deplored damage to the cultural heritage of countries in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation, and those affected by terrorist acts, in particular recent attacks on world cultural heritage sites, calls for an immediate end to such acts, and reminded States parties to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of the provisions contained therein to safeguard and respect cultural property and to prohibit, prevent and, if necessary, put a stop to any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of and any acts of vandalism directed against cultural property.
NAM has offered its full assistance to UNESCO’s efforts to prevent trafficking of cultural property. Prominent members of NAM India and Nigeria are part of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation, which was created by the General Conference of UNESCO as a permanent intergovernmental body in 1978. The NAM Member States cooperate in this regards through other avenues also. For example, In January 2009, the Peruvian government returned to the Iraqi government three tablets with cuneiform writing of Mesopotamian origin, which had been seized at Lima Airport in February 2008. Two of these three objects date from the second millennium BCE and the third from the first millennium BCE.
The Movement has furthermore urged States Parties to enhance broad cooperation in preventing and combating criminal offences against cultural property, especially in returning such proceeds of crime or property to their legitimate owners, in accordance with article 14, paragraph 2, of the Convention, which states that States Parties shall, to the extent permitted by domestic law and if so requested, give priority consideration to re-turning the confiscated proceeds of crime or property to the requesting State Party so that it can give compensation to the victims of the crime or return such proceeds of crime or property to their legitimate owner. NAM has called upon States Parties to exchange information on all aspects of criminal offences against cultural property, in accordance with their national laws, and to coordinate administrative and other measures taken, as appropriate, for the prevention, early detection and punishment of such offences.

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