Statement by Sweden at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Destruction and Trafficking of Cultural Heritage by Terrorist Groups and in situations of Armed Conflict
National statement by Ambassador Irina Schoulgin Nyoni on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Briefing on the Destruction and Trafficking of Cultural Heritage by Terrorist Groups and in situations of Armed Conflict, New York, 30 November 2017.
I would like to begin by thanking the briefers for their important contributions. The perspectives they have shared with the Council have added greatly to our discussion today.
The destruction, looting and trafficking of cultural heritage by terrorist groups and in situations of armed conflict has both immediate and long term consequences. We reiterate our steadfast condemnation of these hateful and cynical practices.
As the Secretary-General's report shows, the destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage is particularly problematic in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya, with sites in these countries that are permanently damaged and where our common heritage is lost forever.
Even though Daesh has been pushed back considerably from territories in Iraq and Syria, the reports of continued seizures of antiquities originating from these areas underscore the need for our continued attention.
History has shown that cultural heritage is often targeted in its own right. Continued preventive efforts to protect cultural heritage are therefore essential, including those proposed by the Secretary-General in his report on the implementation of resolution 2347 adopted earlier this year.
We recognize UNESCO's leading role as the standard-setting agency for cultural heritage protection and welcome its efforts to combat cultural heritage destruction and illicit trafficking of cultural property. Sweden is actively supporting UNESCO's work in this field. Following our recent ratification, we are pleased to join the state parties to the Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
As clearly demonstrated here today, there are a multitude of international and regional actors that play an important role in the protection of cultural heritage. The joint Interpol-Europol operation Pandora, which took place in October and November 2016, together with a large number of member states, UNESCO and the World Customs Organization, and resulted in a large number of seizures of works of art and cultural goods, as well as a significant numbers of arrests is a positive example to this point.
Illicit trafficking of cultural property and cultural heritage crimes received increased attention in Sweden in recent years. As mentioned in the Secretary-General's report, a special Wildlife and Cultural Heritage Crime unit was established within the national police force in 2016. There is also a dedicated national coordinator within the Swedish Police Authority working on strategies and developments in this field. In addition, efforts are ongoing to increase understanding of these issues amongst Swedish nationals travelling to conflict areas as well as to train customs officers on export and import regulations related to cultural property.
As with all forms of trafficking, it is essential to look at the "demand side" of the trade. The burden cannot solely be on the countries affected by war or terrorism. For this reason, it is welcome that the Secretary-General's report addresses the role of the arts and antiquities market.
The Swedish National Heritage Board has opened a dialogue with major Swedish art and antiques-dealers in order to raise awareness of UN Security Council resolutions, with the aim of strengthening the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property. Revised anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing legislation also creates stronger incentives for the private and public sectors to work together on these issues.
Looking forward, we take note, in particular, of the Secretary-General's recommendations regarding the training of personnel on the protection of cultural heritage and on planning processes ahead of mandate renewals or the establishment of new missions, where relevant. We look forward to UNESCO's continued involvement in this regard, together with DPKO, UNODC, UNOCT and other relevant actors.
Where preventive efforts have failed, accountability for attacks against and destruction of cultural heritage sites is essential and perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable. As shown by the Al-Mahdi case, the ICC plays an important role where national authorities are unwilling or unable to properly investigate and adjudicate these crimes.
We look forward to the important work of other investigative mechanisms, such as the IIIM (International Impartial Independent Mechanism) for Syria and the investigative team for Daesh crimes in Iraq, in the fight against impunity for these crimes.
Finally, we warmly welcome the Secretary-General's call for further engagement and partnership with civil society, communities and youth through heritage education and other activities.
With a stronger connection to, and understanding of, our common heritage, we can hopefully promote respect for cultural diversity and tolerance, and build inclusive societies, that not only help better protect our cultural heritage, but that are also less prone to falling into conflict in the first place.