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Antiquities Coalition Partners with UNESCO, Italy, and Jordan on New Initiative

September 29, 2015

The Antiquities Coalition is pleased to join our partners Italy and Jordan on their new initiative to protect cultural heritage from terrorists and traffickers, which was launched this Sunday at the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Our chair and founder Deborah Lehr, co-founder Peter Herdrich, and Executive Director Tess Davis were honored to be in attendance for this special event, which featured Italy and Jordan’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, and INTERPOL President Mireille Ballestrazzi, in addition to a number of ministers from UN member states.

AC at UNG“Protecting Cultural Heritage: An Imperative of Humanity” — launched with strong support from UNESCO, INTERPOL, and UNODC — aims to fully implement UN resolutions and decisions to cut off extremist funding from cultural racketeering. It built on the Antiquities Coalition’s high level forum, “Culture Under Threat: Antiquities Trafficking and Terrorist Financing,” which was held three days earlier at the Asia Society, and also joined by top leaders from Jordan, Italy, and UNESCO, as well as top delegations from other key countries in the fight against the illicit antiquities trade. With these events and with the new UN initiative, the Antiquities Coalition is working with our partners to continue the momentum from the 2015 Cairo Conference and subsequent Cairo Declaration, in which ten leading Middle Eastern and North African countries outlined a bold regional strategy to fight the trafficking of “blood antiquities.”

To learn more about Italy and Jordan’s new initiative, read their joint press release below:



UNITED NATIONS – A new international initiative to enhance the protection of cultural heritage targeted by terrorists and illicit traffickers has been launched at the United Nations by Jordan and Italy, supported by UNESCO, INTERPOL and UNODC.

The “Protecting Cultural Heritage—An Imperative for Humanity” initiative was launched on Sunday 27 September by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Italy and Jordan with the participation of principals from UNESCO, INTERPOL and UNODC as well as ministers from a number of UN member states on the sidelines of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly.

The main goal of the programme is to follow up on resolutions and decisions adopted by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and other international bodies.

Throughout the last decade, the world has witnessed a sharp increase in terrorist attacks on, and destruction of, the cultural heritage of countries affected by armed conflict. Organized looting, illicit trafficking and sale of cultural objects has reached an unprecedented scale.

Terrorist groups are using these acts as a tactic of war to intimidate populations and governments. In addition, these acts aim to generate income for terrorist groups across the Middle East and beyond, which is then used to support their recruitment and operational efforts.

This open-ended partnership comes against a backdrop of increased international activity aimed at countering this threat. The UN Security Council as well as the General Assembly have taken steps to condemn and deplore the destruction of cultural property.

Rallying partners to enhance the protection of cultural heritage, Paolo Gentiloni, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, said: “Cultural heritage is a reflection of human history, civilization and the coexistence of multiple peoples and their ways of life. Its protection is a shared responsibility of the international community, in the interest of future generations.”

“The religious and cultural heritage of the Middle East, the birthplace of civilization and religions, belongs to all humanity,” said Nasser Judeh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, who appealed to the high-level participants to “protect and preserve it as it is the collective responsibility of the international community.”

Advocating for increased political commitment, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO said, “Culture is on the frontline of conflict – we must place it at the heart of peacebuilding”.

The Executive Director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov emphasized the importance of joining efforts in addressing the issue of the trafficking and the destruction of cultural property as ‘crimes that strike at the very core of our civilization and heritage”

President of INTERPOL, the world’s largest police organization, Mireille Ballestrazzi stressed the need “to combine our efforts and resources to efficiently curb this criminal phenomenon and protect the world’s cultural heritage for future generations”.

The Protecting Cultural Heritage initiative is a project open to all member states, international organizations and partners wishing to join forces in support of the protection of cultural heritage from destruction and/or illicit trafficking.

The public is therefore also invited and encouraged to join the conversation on protecting heritage at #ProtectHeritage.