Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here today, on behalf of the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, to open such a timely discussion that lies at the core of Italy’s efforts on the international stage. I would like to thank CTED for hosting this event and for inviting Italy and our longstanding partner UNESCO to join forces in this endeavor.
Italy’s commitment to the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against the traffic and illicit trade of cultural artifacts extends beyond its national borders. These efforts were crystallized in resolution 2347 of 2017, co-sponsored by Italy and France, which was the first ever resolution adopted by the Security Council dedicated exclusively to the destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage in situations of armed conflict and, notably, by terrorist groups.
In resolution 2347, the Security Council recognized the indispensable role of international cooperation in preventing and countering the illicit trade and trafficking in cultural property in situations of armed conflict and at the hands of terrorists or terrorist groups. We were particularly delighted to see this emphasized once again in CTED’s latest mandate resolution, and commend today’s event as an important step forward in drawing attention to the – often neglected – terrorist dimension of the issue.
The protection of cultural heritage, as well as the prevention and countering of the illicit trade of cultural property, have been and will continue to be a top priority for Italy.
Allow me to recall some of our efforts in this space.
In 1969, Italy became the first Country in the world to create a specialized unit in the protection of cultural heritage and in the fight against illegal trafficking of cultural property within the Carabinieri Corps.
Since then, the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC to be short) has been on the frontline of the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property at home and internationally, working in close cooperation with UNESCO, INTERPOL and other UN agencies such as UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), as well as national police forces. The Carabinieri TPC has also been providing specialized support in preserving cultural heritage in the context of peacekeeping operations, including in Iraq since 2003, as well as training on the investigation of the illicit trade to police officers and customs officials around the world.
Building on this experience, in 2016, Italy together with UNESCO, launched the “Blue Helmets for Culture” initiative, creating a national Task Force working within the framework of UNESCO’s “Unite4Heritage” Campaign. The Task Force, first of its kind, brings together officers from the Carabinieri TPC (Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage), and experts from Italy’s Ministry of Culture, to support requesting Member States facing a crisis or natural disasters, in their efforts to preserve and assess damage to cultural heritage, and prevent looting and trafficking, including by terrorist groups.
As part of its international counter-terrorism efforts, Italy, together with the United States and Saudi Arabia, also co-chairs the “Counter ISIS Finance” Working Group of the Global Coalition against Daesh, and leads its sub-working group which specifically addresses the illicit traffic of cultural property.
More recently, in 2018, Italy co-founded together with Cyprus, the “Group of Friends for the Protection of Cultural Heritage”. Stemming from the impetus of resolution 2347, the Group of Friends aims to promote the ratification and implementation of relevant international instruments, and strengthen international cooperation to prevent and fight the destruction of cultural heritage and the illicit trade of cultural property, including when linked to terrorist objectives.
We hope that the Group of Friends will be able to provide a platform to amplify and build upon the findings of discussion such as the one organized today, and support our partners, in their efforts to raise awareness of the issue.
These are just some examples of Italy’s engagement on the topic. We intend to continue to drive these efforts forward, and support Member States in making the protection of cultural heritage an imperative for long lasting peace and security.
Today’s discussion is just the first step of what we hope will be a close and fruitful collaboration with CTED and UNESCO to raise awareness and strengthen Member States’ cooperation in preventing and countering the traffic and illicit trade of cultural property for terrorist purposes.
Thank you and I look forward to the discussion ahead.