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Antiquities Coalition Executive Director Speaks at United Nations 

June 24, 2016

Antiquities Coalition Executive Director Speaks at United Nations

 UNESCO has published its summary of the United Nations May 27 experts meeting on the destruction and trafficking of cultural property by terrorist groups and organized crime. This event was the last in a series of roundtables organized by UNESCO with the Permanent Missions of Italy and Jordan, INTERPOL, and UNODC. It was part of the larger initiative “Protecting Cultural Heritage—An Imperative for Humanity” which will conclude in September with

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, was one of the featured speakers at the event, which also included representatives of UN Member States, intergovernmental organizations, museums, universities, and other nongovernmental organizations.

Davis urged those present to remember that despite the severity of the danger posed by Daesh (also known as ISIS), the current threat to our world heritage goes far beyond Iraq and Syria, and far beyond the Middle East and North Africa. “Daesh was not the first to traffic in blood antiquities; it won’t be the last,” said Davis. “So long as there is a market for conflict antiquities, criminals, armed insurgents, and violent extremist organizations will find a supply. This is a continuing, global crisis. It requires continuing, global action. And of all the institutions in the world, the United Nations is in the best position to provide a solution.”

Davis also spoke on the parallels between Daesh and the Khmer Rouge, who plunged the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia into decades of civil war, which in turn triggered an organized trade in blood antiquities, as well as the deliberate and systematic destruction of minority groups and their heritage. Davis argued that Cambodia’s story served as a warning “That our law and policy towards cultural trafficking and destruction—which in many ways remains unchanged since Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975—is failing.” She continued, “40 years later, Cambodia’s tragedy is being repeated.”

She urged the Member States present, especially those representing demand countries, to immediately close their border to conflict antiquities, to include cultural heritage in any peacekeeping mandate, and to criminally prosecute crimes against culture along with other atrocity crimes.

Click here to read UNESCO’s full summary of the meeting.