Three-day workshop on the ethics of collections and fight against illicit traffic in the GCC

The UNESCO Doha Office in partnership with Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority is organizing a workshop on “Ethics of collections and fight against illicit traffic of cultural heritage in the GCC” from the 2nd to the 4th of April in the Bab al Qasr hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property pose a serious threat to the cultural heritage. Cultural artifacts often have symbolic and immeasurable value for communities and their loss means an impoverishment of a community’s heritage and people’s cultural identity.
The looting of cultural property is especially acute and dramatic in countries affected by armed conflict. Recent conflicts in the region, such as Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and the rapid development and expansion of the art market in the GCC, have created a high demand for cultural objects and increased the risk and potential for illegal trafficking of cultural artifacts originating from countries that do not have the necessary measures in place.

The workshop is part of UNESCO’s capacity building initiatives in the region focusing on the fight against illicit traffic in cultural property. It follows workshops held in Bahrain (2010), Saudi Arabia (2012) and Oman (2014 and 2015). However, this workshop is the first of its kind in the Region with an emphasis on the ethics of collections bringing together representatives of public and private museums, collectors and auction houses as well as experts from institutions such as UNESCO, UNIDROIT, INTERPOL, WCO-OMD, ICOM, UNODC, and representatives of culture authorities from the GCC.

By engaging with professionals active in the private and public culture sector with this initiative aims to increase the awareness around the ethical and legal standards regarding acquisition, collection and managing of cultural heritage as well as the consequences caused by trafficking in cultural heritage and difficulties raised by traceability, seizures and restitutions of stolen and illegally exported cultural objects.

Museums, private collectors, art market’s stakeholders, in particular auction houses, are crucial actors to be actively involved in the fight against illicit traffic. The workshop is therefore offering a guide to the existing frameworks but also the initiatives and actions of these institutions in terms of the acquisition and transfer of collections.

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