Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UNSC meeting on destruction and trafficking in cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflicts

Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UNSC meeting on destruction and trafficking in cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflicts

As prepared. Check against delivery. 

Mr. President,

I would like to join other speakers in thanking the Italian Presidency for convening this meeting. My thanks also go to today’s briefers for their valuable inputs to our discussion.

By adopting resolution 2347 the UN Security Council has drawn the attention of the international community to a growing problem of destruction of cultural heritage and trafficking in antiquities, which became a feature of numerous armed conflicts worldwide.

The most vulnerable to these threats are Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen, taking into account the involvement of such non-state actors as ISIL, Al-Qaeda, Taliban and alike. In some cases, actions of terrorists in pursuit of easy profit can lead to a wholesale obliteration of a country’s archaeological record.

In several countries where terrorists suffered major territorial loses their ability to conduct these criminal activities for the sake of funding their atrocities was limited. Yet, according to UNESCO’s estimates, the value of the illicit trade in artifacts excavated or looted from protected sights and museums is still enormous.

Mr. President,

As outlined by the thematic report of the UN Secretary-General, resolution 2347 is far from being implemented in full, as states may need more time to adjust their respective legislation.

I would like to limit my further statement to the following measures that states can focus on, apart from theuniversalization of relevant international treaties adopted under the auspices of the UN and regional organizations:

Firstly, broader criminalizing offenses against cultural heritage and imposition of stiff penalties for illegal activities with regard to antiquities, like prison sentences or very high fines. It is important to increase the latter so that they would not be viewed as simple business expenses for professional smugglers. This will serve the purpose of bringing perpetrators to justice.

Second, strengthening import-export regimes and respective national institutional frameworks. International coordination between law enforcement and customs agencies will also contribute to the effective conduct of investigation, prosecution, seizure and return of trafficked cultural property.

In addition, states have to ensure wider information sharing on trafficking routes and criminal’s modus operandi. There also must be an active cooperation on bilateral and multilateral levels in exposing and stopping transnational organized crime groups, which assist terrorists in exporting looted antiquities from conflict zones. For these purposes, liaison with UNESCO, UNODC, WCO and Interpol, as well as utilization of their relevant databases are also a must.

Thirdly, close public-private partnership is necessary to track sales of illegally imported artifacts. Given that Internet has become a major conduit for criminal activities, special attention should be given to supervising relevant online auctions. In this case the development of self-regulations by art market participants is particularly welcomed.

And finally, further monitoring by the relevant UN bodies of the actual impact of resolution 2347 on preventing the destruction and smuggling of cultural heritage is required to access the dynamic in this area and develop lasting solutions.

I thank you.