Over 41,000 artefacts seized in global operation targeting trafficking of cultural goods
21 February 2018
More than 41,000 objects including coins, furniture, paintings, musical instruments, archaeological pieces and sculptures have been seized in a global operation targeting the trafficking of cultural artefacts.
The seizures were made during the first joint customs and police operation codenamed Athena organized by the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL, and the Europe-focused Operation Pandora II coordinated by the Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol.
Tens of thousands of checks were carried out at airports and border crossing points across 81 countries during the operations which ran from October to December 2017. Auction houses, museums and private houses were also searched, resulting in more than 300 investigations being opened and 101 people arrested.
Online illicit markets
With the Internet becoming an important part of the chain in the illicit trade of cultural goods, law enforcement officers also monitored online market places and sales sites.
This resulted in the seizure more than 7,000 objects, nearly 20 per cent of the total number of artefacts recovered during the operations. In just one investigation in Spain, the Guardia Civil seized more than 2,000 cultural objects, the majority of which were coins from the Roman and other Empires. Officials also seized 88 pieces of ivory as well as weapons including swords, a crossbow and 39 historical firearms ranging from rifles to pistols…
Peace and security threat
“The results of the Operations Athena and Pandora II speak for themselves: cooperation between Customs and Police can yield excellent results and should be promoted and sustained at all levels. The fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects has been long neglected by law enforcement agencies, however, we cannot turn a blind eye to it. While we lose our common history and identity, the proceeds of trafficking fuel terrorism, conflicts and other criminal activities,” said WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya. “We will keep working in this area of enforcement and will soon deploy the first specialized global training curriculum for Customs administrations – a very concrete and hands-on outcome of our common work,” he added…
Save the seeds – and the living plants we eat and use
FAO’s new Voluntary Guidelines for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Food Plants outline how to craft technical rules and shepherd them into implementation and will help governments meet their international commitments.
Svalbard seed vault is the apex of a global network to protecting plant genetic resources for food and agriculture
23 February 2018, Rome – The ‘Doomsday Vault’, storing the seeds of vital crops in an underground vault near Svalbard, Norway, will celebrate its 10th anniversary soon, drawing deserved attention to the importance of conserving seeds that are vital for food and agriculture.
It was the adoption of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 2001 that gave the impetus to the Norwegian government to proceed with the establishment of the Seed Vault; the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture welcomed and supported the initiative in 2004.
The resources and attention given to Svalbard, now the iconic home to seeds of around one million unique plants, is welcome. While farmers have bred crops for millennia, the emphasis on conservation of crop diversity ex situ is historically linked to Nikolai Vavilov, who set up one of the first genebanks in Russia in 1921. In a quest to end all famines, the botanist travelled to more than 60 countries, listening to farmers and collecting seeds with an eye to their potential to contribute to hardier crops in a changing world…
Many locally important food crops grow in parts of the world facing rapid change and high levels of food insecurity. To help countries in the daunting task of protecting the species relevant to their food supply in their natural habitats where they would continue to evolve important traits for adaptation to changes, FAO recently published Voluntary Guidelines for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Crop Wild Relatives and Wild Food Plants.
Yemen: City’s architectural connection to Islam at risk as fighting nears
Sana’a/Geneva (ICRC) – As fighting along Yemen’s Red Sea coast continues, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is urging all parties to the conflict to protect and respect the city of Zabid, a World Heritage Site that has the highest concentration of mosques in Yemen.
Fighting would endanger civilians, Zabid’s unique architecture and the city’s cultural connection to one of the world’s major religions. Cultural property like Zabid’s is protected by international humanitarian law.
“The fighting in Hodeida governorate is at the gates of the historic city of Zabid, fanning fears for the fate of its cultural heritage,” said Alexandre Faite, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Yemen…
“International humanitarian law makes it clear that special care must be taken in military operations to avoid damaging this outstanding archeological and historical site,” Mr Faite added.
Zabid served as the capital of Yemen from the 13th century to the 15th century and played an important role in the Arab and Muslim world as a centre of Islamic knowledge. With its narrow streets and the many minarets rising from its 86 mosques, Zabid is considered an architectural jewel of the early years of Islam. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.