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United States and Bahrain Commit to Strengthen Bilateral Ties to Fight Against the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property

October 28, 2021

Announce Statement of Cooperation at Public Convening of International Experts

The Antiquities Coalition, in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, was honored to host a virtual public event focused on strengthening international cooperation in the fight against the looting and trafficking of cultural property.

Moderated by Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large Dr. Richard Kurin of the Smithsonian Institution, the convening facilitated dialogue on critical topics, including emerging obstacles to combating the illicit art and antiquities trade as they are experienced by customs officials, museum institutions, and the private sector. 

This event was one part of a wider online forum to promote mutual understanding between the United States, still the heart of the global art and antiquities world, and Bahrain, which is quickly becoming one of its more important players. To this end, Bahraini and US representatives celebrated recent success in fighting cultural racketeering. 

President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), Her Excellency Shaikha Mai AlKhalifa, celebrated recent educational initiatives pursued by BACA as well as new collaborative projects between BACA and UNESCO, including awareness campaigns and the establishment of more UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bahrain. Bureau of Educational And Cultural Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Lussenhop discussed how seizures and repatriation of illicit antiquities are key to raising awareness of art crime. Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki, Special Advisor to BACA and UNESCO, reviewed the relevant obstacles facing museum institutions and the private sector, highlighting how international cooperation is needed. 

Mr. Lussenhop declared, “The United States cannot do this alone…We feel that our efforts are multiplied when we can work in close partnerships with other interested states like Bahrain.”

In a triumphant conclusion to the event, Chargé d’Affaires to the Kingdom of Bahrain Maggie Nardi announced The 2021 Manama Statement of Cooperation between the US and Bahrain to combat criminal misuse of the art and antiquities market.

Making up 42% of the global art market, the United States is in a unique position to make a difference. Moreover, with its close global ties and effective regional diplomacy, the Kingdom of Bahrain is well positioned to become a leader in the global fight against the illicit trafficking of art and artifacts. In collaboration with countries like Bahrain, United States and international leaders in protecting cultural heritage concluded that— when we work together— meaningful change is possible.

The Antiquities Coalition commends the United States government and the Kingdom of Bahrain for their distinguished leadership in safeguarding our shared cultural heritage.  We thank Dr. Kurin for moderating the discussion, and our distinguished panelists Her Excellency Shaikha Mai AlKhalifa, Acting Assistant Secretary Matthew Lussenhop, and Dr. Mounir Bouchenaki for their participation in the session.





Watch the virtual session: