WCO participates in the International Expert Meeting on safeguarding Libyan cultural heritage

13 May 2016

WCO participates in the International Expert Meeting on safeguarding Libyan cultural heritageThe WCO participated in an international expert meeting on safeguarding Libyan cultural heritage in Tunis from 9 to 11 May. The meeting was organized by the Libyan Department of Antiquities, the International Centre for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) with the support of the United States Embassy of Libya in Tunis.

More than 30 Libyan stakeholders, including representatives of the Ministry of Culture, Department of Antiquities, Customs and Tourism Police, Libyan Universities, mayors of various cities and representatives of civil society, along with experts from international organizations such as INTERPOL, ICCROM, International Council of Museums (ICOM), UNESCO and the World Bank, in addition to representatives of several scientific missions working in Libya, the Smithsonian Institution and academics participated in the three-day meeting.

Participants underlined the need to provide Libyan counterparts with tools necessary to protect Libyan cultural heritage from such risks as conflicts and natural disasters. From the law enforcement perspective, monitoring of online sales through social media was highlighted as one of the top priorities. Although the threat posed to cultural heritage in Syria is more immediate, Libyan cultural heritage is also at risk particularly on account of random excavations and the trafficking of cultural objects both within the country and abroad.

As a result of the discussions, a priority action plan was developed in order to address four main areas: archaeological sites, museum collections and archives, historic cities, and intangible heritage.

One of the action plan points refers to institutional capacity building and improvement of governance for heritage protection through enhanced legal provisions and their enforcement, as well as training of stakeholders (such as Customs, Police and managers of sites and museums). During the meeting, the WCO delivered a presentation on the developments of the ARCHEO platform as well as other tools that are currently being developed to address enforcement needs.

The meeting was closed by the Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Mr. Martin Kobler, who pointed out that “the role of culture as a soft power is central to peace building and development. It is critical to achieving social cohesion.”