On March 10, 2014, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities (ICPEA) signed an unprecedented public-private partnership to combat cultural racketeering in Egypt.
Since the January 2011 Revolution, modern day Egypt has fallen victim to the scourge of cultural racketeering, the systematic looting and trafficking of art and antiquities by organized crime. In response to this crisis, an alliance of archaeological, business, and cultural organizations came together to form the ICPEA in March 2011. Led by the Antiquities Coalition and the Capitol Archaeological Institute at George Washington University, the ICPEA includes a number of leading institutions such as the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).
Invited by Egypt to discuss ways to best support the government, the ICPEA and Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities developed the public-private partnership, the first of its kind. This landmark agreement focuses the power and ingenuity of academic, business, and cultural leaders in the fight against cultural racketeering in Egypt. It addresses both short and long term initiatives, including:
- Cultural Property Inventories: conducting the first nationwide inventory of all known antiquities in Egypt — led by Egyptian archeologists and the Ministry of Antiquities.
- Physical Site Protection: training security officials at ancient sites and supporting other programs to better protect archaeology in situ.
- Ancient Records Digitization: scanning ancient records to protect their content and make it available to researchers on the internet.
- Satellite Site Mapping: conducting nationwide mapping of all key archeological sites, providing an unparalleled resource for study, in addition to serving as a benchmark for tracking looting and urban encroachment.
- Cultural Heritage Education Campaigns: designing and implementing cultural heritage education programs around major archaeological sites.
- Small Business Initiatives: working with businesses and entrepreneurial organizations to promote the development of small businesses around tourist sites to create economic incentive for their protection.
Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities, Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, and ICPEA/Antiquities Coalition Chairman, Deborah Lehr, were signatories to this historical agreement. At the signing ceremony in Washington, DC, Dr. Ibrahim said this initiative was the first public-private partnership ever undertaken by his Ministry. “The International Coalition, since its inception in March 2011, has shown great support and exerted utmost efforts to raise awareness and combat the looting and illegal trade of Egyptian antiquities and artifacts.”
“Egyptian antiquities and sites are among the most historically significant and important in the world. In times of political transition, ancient sites and artifacts are often targets of international crime and illicit activity,” said Lehr. “We commend the Government of Egypt for its efforts, and are delighted to be working together to develop and implement short and long term solutions to ensure protection of Egypt’s invaluable cultural heritage.”