WCO supports UNESCO efforts in the fight against trafficking in cultural property in Syria and Lebanon

10 December 2015

At the invitation of the UNESCO Office in Beirut, the World Customs Organization (WCO) supported the delivery of two training sessions from 30 November to 4 December 2015 in Beirut, Lebanon.

The first training, dedicated to the fight against illicit trafficking and restitution of cultural property in Syria, took place within the framework of the project “Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage”. The project is funded by the European Union with International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). The training was conducted with the support of experts from the WCO, Federal Office of Swiss Police (FEDPOL), INTERPOL, United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), University College London, and the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) of the Ministry of Culture of Syria.

The trainees included DGAM staff as well as INTERPOL National Central Bureau, Syrian and Jordan Customs and police officers. The three-day training covered various aspects of stakeholder engagement, international legal framework and preventive measures to facilitate return and restitution of cultural objects. A number of case studies were presented and discussed with the support of the trainers.

The topic of the second training was “Building capacities in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects: prevention, cooperation and restitution in Lebanon”. The training was organised by the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut and supported by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). The training gathered representatives of all national stakeholders working in this area, including the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA), army, police and Customs, as well as the representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the National Museum of Beirut.

The national legal framework and its compliance with international instruments were discussed in detail. Special attention was paid to the presentation of operational tools and practical exercises, including monitoring online sales, restitution practices, and enforcement measures. One of the outcomes of the training was the call for the ratification by Lebanon of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1999) and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, endorsement of the further work in this area both on the national and regional level as well as the necessity to keep all relevant stakeholders engaged in the ongoing dialogue.

The WCO will continue its cooperation with UNESCO and all other relevant stakeholders to enhance Customs capacities in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects and the depletion of the cultural heritage particularly in the conflict zones.


Relevant information

Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage

Unite4Heritage campaign 

Illicit trafficking of cultural property in Iraq