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First Cultural Ministerial Meeting of the EU-Southern Partnership Tackles the Illicit Antiquities Trade

June 23, 2022

AC Joins Mediterranean Ministers of Culture In Calling for Strong and Urgent Regional Action 

The Mediterranean is home to a wealth of cultural heritage, and leaders from its governments must work together to protect this history from those who would seek to exploit it. 

AC Executive Director Tess Davis Presents at the Session Plenary

Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, Tess Davis, emphasized this message during the Conference of the Ministers of Culture of the Mediterranean on June 16 and 17, 2022.

Hosted by the Italian Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs, this two-day event in Naples, Italy, marked the first cultural ministerial of the EU-Southern partnership, the coalition between the European Union and its neighbors on the Mediterranean. Ministers of Culture from France, Albania, Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Spain, and more spoke alongside relevant European, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations. The Antiquities Coalition was honored to be one of the few non-governmental delegations invited to join and the only one from the United States.

The event uncovered how Mediterranean governments can collaborate to advance cultural diplomacy and protect heritage as a common good of the region, building off Italy’s successes during its 2021 G20 Presidency.

To protect Mediterranean cultural heritage, Davis proposed three recommendations for global leaders in attendance:

  1. Continue to link peace and security: Cultural racketeering is not a failure of preservation, but of governance, law, diplomacy, civil society, and markets. It can only be solved by strengthening law enforcement, international cooperation, and market integrity.

  2. Strengthen the legal framework: The 1970 UNESCO Convention was a watershed, but its drafters could not have envisioned the internet, instantaneous money transfers, or global direct shipping. Better use of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime could fill gaps left by the 1970 Convention, complementing UNESCO’s critical work. Governments must take better advantage of existing laws combatting fraud, money laundering, sanctions evasion, and terrorist financing—crimes that often go hand in hand with trafficking.

  3. Commit to continuing action: This ministerial sends a strong signal that the Mediterranean is building the political will to safeguard our shared heritage. Making this an annual convening would sustain this momentum and hold participating governments accountable to each other and the global communities while providing them with the incentive and support they need to succeed.

At the close of the event, participating delegations, including the Antiquities Coalition, signed the Naples Declaration, reinforcing several previous commitments to safeguarding cultural heritage, including the G20’s 2021 Rome Declaration

The Naples Declaration calls on stakeholders to develop a region-specific strategy for stable and lasting cultural cooperation, better integrate culture in foreign, development, and climate change policies, the promotion of joint initiatives, and much more.

The Antiquities Coalition supports the Naples Declaration and looks forward to continuing collaboration with Ministers of Culture in the Mediterranean region to combat the illegal trade of cultural heritage.

To watch Davis’s remarks, visit here.