The ICOM International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods

A long-term international collaborative platform for international organisations, law enforcement agencies, research institutions and other external expert stakeholders

An information databank for the network and the public through a Website and a Global Report

An innovative tool that will contribute to preventing and fighting the illegal trade in cultural property and related crimes at both national and international levels

Article 17 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property mentions the possibility for relevant organisations to conduct studies on matters relating to the illicit movement of cultural property. In creating the International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods, ICOM wishes to start a continuous process of extensive research and reporting, in close cooperation with a wide range of international partners.

The International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods was initially a three-year project which was initiated in January 2013 on the initiative of ICOM and with the financial support of the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Commission’s Directorate-General Home Affairs. Through a daily monitoring, the International Observatory is gathering and compiling an unprecedented amount of information regarding illicit traffic in cultural goods. The acquired information has been used to implement a dedicated Website, which aims at disseminating all the information available and acting as an activity hub for ICOM and its partners in this fight.

This three-year project provides a unique monitoring activity which will lead to the publication of the first Global Report on the worldwide issue of illegal traffic in cultural property.

The International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods also intends to create a strong network of project partners who will contribute to the development of the Website and the publication of the final Global Report. In this regard, several work meetings will be organised at ICOM General Secretariat with the partners of the project.

The project partners of the International Observatory, originating from international organisations, national law enforcement agencies, specialized research institutions and state administrations, are divided into two categories: the Consulting and the Editorial Committee. Both committees will help ICOM develop and improve the Observatory Website during the first 24 months of the project, whereas the Editorial Committee will pursue its participation in coordinating the conception of the Global Report during the third year.

In addition, ICOM General Secretariat will conduct a series of field missions in several strategic countries either very affected by the problem or with developed infrastructures and services at their disposal to fight it. These missions will be an occasion to meet law enforcement agencies, custom officers, public officers, heritage and art professionals, researchers, representatives of national NGOs, journalists, etc. in order to discuss the situation of the traffic in the country as well as the methodology and tools developed in the country to counter it.


Objectives of the International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods:

- Improve monitoring methods, data gathering and scientific research.
- Provide information and data for international public understanding and policy orientation.
- Provide a space for dialogue, discussion and mutual understanding for key organisations.
- Motivate the exchange of good practices, techniques and methods between concerned parties.
- Reinforce collaboration between stakeholders for the development of instruments and practices.
- Identify and better respond to the needs in terms of training and capacity-building.
- Identify and promote national and international normative and practical instruments.
- Raise awareness of governments, IOs, NGOs and the general public on the issue.
- Encourage all parties (States, IOs and NGOs) to improve and develop methods and tools.


Expected outcomes of the project:

- Cooperative network development
- Information exchange
- Dissemination of information

Medium term:
- Better knowledge and practices
- Legal improvements
- Concrete collaborations
- Better prevention
- Dissemination of information

Long term:
- Development of legal tools
- Solid cooperative framework
- Reduction of the traffic


Who we are?

The International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods has been developed by ICOM's Department of Programmes:

Project management: France Desmarais, Director of Programmes and Partnerships

Project coordination: Raphaël Roig, Senior Programmes Officer

Website and report management: Susanne Pöverlein, Programme Coordinator

Press officer: Renata Kaminker, Programme Coordinator


Contribute to the project

Should you wish to publish on our website information regarding your organisation or institution, or other resources, please use the contact form, or fill out the on-line form.