A Roadmap for the G20



The illicit trade in cultural objects is a crime first and foremost. It may be described as a failure of governance, law, diplomacy, civil society, and markets, but it is not a preservation failure. It cannot be solved by better archaeology, conservation, or restoration, but by strengthening law enforcement, international cooperation, and economic integrity.

The Group of Twenty (G20), as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, is thus in a unique position to make a difference in the global fight against the illicit trade in antiquities. It is made up of 19 member states and the European Union, accounting for 85% of the global GDP, 75% of the global trade, and at least 90% of the global art market. Since 2020, the forum has added protecting cultural heritage to its agenda of issues it tackles head on, coordinating between the world’s leading economies and activating political will from the top down to combat the looting and trafficking of cultural property.


In 2021, for the first time, the G20 under the Italian Presidency gathered heads of state and government to work together to combat the illicit trade. To support this important work, an international coalition of experts released Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: A Roadmap for the G20 to Combat the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects.

This evidenced-based report puts forward nine specific recommendations to strengthen global policy against the looting and trafficking of cultural objects, a transnational crime closely linked to war and terrorism. It highlights risks posed by the illicit trade through a case study illustrating how armed groups plundered ancient sites in Syria and then laundered cultural objects into unsuspecting global marketplaces. More importantly, based on lessons learned from Syria’s tragedy and others, it calls for new policies, priorities, and practices to be considered by the G20, its Member States, and the private sector as they work together to support the communities victimized by this transnational crime. The report was developed by leading experts and was published online by the Antiquities Coalition in collaboration with Heritage for Peace in 2021.