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G20 Maintains its Focus on Fighting Cultural Racketeering

September 18, 2023

2023 Leader’s Statement and Ministerial Outputs Reinforce Commitment to Culture

From September 9-10, global leaders convened in India for the 2023 G20 Summit. The historic meeting resulted in the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, which includes strong language calling for the “full recognition and protection of culture.”

We call for the full recognition and protection of culture with its intrinsic value as a transformative driver and an enabler for the achievement of the SDGs and advance the inclusion of culture as a standalone goal in future discussions on a possible post-2030 development agenda. We reiterate our commitment to strengthen our fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property at national, regional or international levels to enable its return and restitution to their countries and communities of origin as relevant, and call for sustained dialogue and action in that endeavour, with a view to strengthen cultural diplomacy and intercultural exchanges, consistent with national law and relevant UNESCO Conventions. We encourage the international community to protect the living cultural heritage, including the intellectual property, notably with regard to the impact of the over commercialization and misappropriation of such living heritage on the sustainability and on the livelihoods of practitioners and community bearers as well as Indigenous Peoples.

The AC welcomes this commitment in the declaration, which we first called for in our Task Force Report, Safeguarding Cultural Heritage In Conflict Zones: A Roadmap for the G20 to Combat the Illicit Trade, published in 2021.

This outcome emphasizes the result of the G20 Culture Ministerial, held late last month. On August 26, cultural leaders from G20 member states, invited countries, and representatives from international organizations gathered in Varanasi for the third G20 Culture Ministerial, which concluded with the release of the Kashi Cultural Pathway Outcome Document. The statement recognized looting and illicit trafficking of cultural property as a serious crime and reiterated the G20’s commitment to fighting cultural racketeering. It put forward four specific calls for action: 

  1. Encouraging the ratification and effective implementation of international agreements and conventions as relevant…while also ensuring progress and better implementation of international standards
  2. Ensuring cooperation and the strengthening of appropriate tools… to better support transnational investigations and prosecution on cultural crimes
  3. Further encouraging cross-sectoral cooperation and dialogue among cultural heritage and disaster-risk management stakeholders at the local , national, regional and international level,
  4. Strengthening preventive action and regulation of illicitly exported cultural property more

The ministerial followed four meetings of the Culture Working Group (CWG), which convened over the course of India’s presidency to examine priority topics. Executive Director Tess Davis represented the Antiquities Coalition at the first thematic webinar held on March 28, 2023. Davis’s remarks and the AC’s 2021 Task Force Report were both referenced in “G20 Culture: Shaping the Global Narrative for Inclusive Growth,” published by the CWG.

The AC commends the G20 for prioritizing this issue and demonstrating the political will needed to combat looting and trafficking from the top down. We look forward to Brazil continuing and building on this important initiative as they host the G20 in 2024. 

Read the Kashi Cultural Pathway here

Read G20 Culture: Shaping the Global Narrative for Inclusive Growth here.