Wednesday 25 September 2013

US Joins Museums in Launching Red List on Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk from Theft

Jen Psaki (US Department of State) 'US Joins Museums in Launching Red List on Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk from Theft', Latin American Herald Tribune Wednesday
September 25, 2013
On September 25, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard will join the President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz, at the launch of the Emergency Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk. The event, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, will also feature remarks from Thomas Campbell, Director of the Museum; Irina Bakova, the Director General of the United Nations Scientific, Educational, and Cultural Organization; and Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund. The Red List was developed by ICOM, in collaboration with the Department of State, to respond to the widespread looting of museums and archaeological sites in Syria and to help authorities identify Syrian objects that may be protected by national or international law. The United States strongly supports efforts to preserve Syrias cultural heritage and continues to call on all parties in Syria to respect and protect Syrian cultural sites including museums, archives, and places of archaeological, historic, and religious significance. The destruction and looting of sites and monuments that have been preserved for millennia places Syria at risk of losing a cultural legacy of universal importance.
So where's the MOU? The MOUs are supposed to be to protect the cultural heritage of specific 1970 UNESCO Convention states parties from "pillage". The US seems to be admitting "pillage" is going on, so where's the MOU instead of a cosy chat over a glass of plonk and canapes at the Met? Perhaps the US' outdated Convention on Cultural Property Implementation (sic) Act is not all it's cracked up to be? Maybe it's not doing the job it was (ostensibly) written for? Maybe if that is the case, it should be rewritten to suit the needs of the modern world, and the state of the modern market in antiquities in the US and the rest of the world? Do you think that's what the Great and Good are gathering to talk about as they thumb through a fresh copy of the Red List?

Obviously it is not really a very effective way of implementing the Convention if it can only be achieved by Syria asking the US very nicely to help it keep looted heritage in the country, when the US has been stomping about with its World Policeman hat on for the last few weeks, threatening to blast Syria into Kingdom Come. That's just dumb.

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