WCO Secretary General addresses G20 Culture Ministers' Meeting in Rome

02 August 2021

The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, participated in the first G20 Culture Ministers' Meeting held in Rome on 29 and 30 July 2021. This ministerial meeting, devoted to culture, is the latest addition to the work stream of the annual meeting of the world’s 20 major economies and led to the unanimous adoption of the “Rome Declaration of the G20 Culture Ministers”. Among various calls for action, the Declaration specifically mentions the need for the development and strengthening of appropriate tools in strong collaboration with organizations such as the WCO.

The G20 Ministers of Culture, as well as heads and representatives of international organizations, namely the Council of Europe, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), INTERPOL, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the WCO, along with the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and the Youth Engagement Group to the G20 (Y20), worked together to address the priorities set by the Italian G20 Presidency.

In his keynote speech addressing the G20 Ministers, Dr. Mikuriya outlined three major takeaways in relation to the protection of cultural heritage. At the outset, he congratulated the Italian G20 Presidency and G20 Members for focusing much-needed political attention, at the highest level, on illicit trafficking of cultural objects, noting that political support was critical to the actions of the global law enforcement community on the ground. He went on to underline the importance of culture for maintaining peace, security and unity, stressing the value of strengthening international and inter-agency cooperation to fight effectively against this type of transnational crime and, accordingly, underscoring the importance of the outcomes of this meeting.

In the margins of the ministerial meeting, Dr. Mikuriya held a series of meetings to advocate the role of Customs in enforcing export, import and transit requirements related to cultural goods. At the invitation of the Honourable Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Secretary General Mikuriya participated in a meeting with the Heads of the UNODC and INTERPOL. A joint press briefing was organized to share the outcomes of the discussions with the Italian public.

During his meeting with the Honourable Mehmet Ersoy, Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dr. Mikuriya discussed the challenges in ensuring effective anti-trafficking efforts at the Syrian and Iraqi borders.

At the close of the Secretary General’s meeting with Ms. Aleisha Woodward, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, both sides agreed to explore potential areas for future cooperation based on the excellent operational results achieved by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) National Targeting Center, Homeland Security Investigations/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (HSI/ICE) and the WCO Cultural Heritage team.

Secretary General Mikuriya's discussion with his INTERPOL counterpart, Secretary General Jürgen Stock, focused on the two key areas of post-COVID-19 recovery and cultural heritage. In relation to the latter, Mr. Stock sought the WCO's support for the dissemination and wider use of its new mobile application, ID-Art, which provides public access to INTERPOL’s Database of Stolen Works of Art. It was agreed that INTERPOL and the WCO would jointly promote the use of technology, such as ID-Art, by Customs and other border agencies in the coming months.