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Statement On UNESCO

October 19, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC, October 19, 2017 — The Antiquities Coalition congratulates, Audrey Azoulay, the French candidate, on her nomination to be the next Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). If confirmed by the full Unesco membership of 195, she will be the second women nominated to this post after Irina Bokova, her immediate predecessor.

Director General Bokova, during her time at UNESCO, has positioned it as the leading international institution in the fight against cultural racketeering. She has raised awareness about how violent extremist organizations, in addition to the tragic loss of life, have targeted the physical structures and historic artifacts that represent our shared history. We commend her for her actions and wish her well in future.

We welcome the leadership of Ms. Azoulay, the former Cultural Minister of France.  Under her term, France announced a major initiative with the United Arab Emirates to protect cultural heritage, including the creation of the ALIPH fund to support conservation and preservation of historic sites and artifacts. We hope that the protection of cultural heritage will continue to remain a top priority of UNESCO under her leadership.

On the topic of leadership, we are disappointed that the United States has chosen to withdraw from UNESCO.  The United States has been a key player in promoting education, cultural, and scientific pursuits around the world—and UNESCO has been an important part of this strategy.  It is ironic that this action takes place in part of the American position alleging “anti-Israel bias” at UNESCO—just as the organization’s first Jewish Director-General is about to take office.

We urge the Administration to reconsider its position.

About the Antiquities Coalition 

The Antiquities Coalition unites a diverse group of experts in the fight against cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world—erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innovative and practical solutions tackle crimes against heritage head on, empowering communities and countries in crisis. Learn more at

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