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Building peace in the minds of men and women

International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property

14 November

Held every year on 14 November, the  International  Day  against  Illicit  Trafficking  in  Cultural Property reminds the world that theft, looting and illicit trafficking of cultural property takes place in every country, robbing people of their culture, identity and history, and that we have to work together to combat this crime. 

Illicit trafficking of cultural property has many causes, and ignorance and poor ethics are at its very root. Illicitly traded cultural property is often transferred either through illicit markets worldwide or through licit markets such as auctions, including through the Internet. People, governments, the art-market and institutions can do their part to fight this by raising awareness, being informed and ethical when buying and selling art and cultural objects, enacting and respecting laws, and protecting cultural heritage and property.

UNESCO first adopted 14 November as the International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property during its 40th General Conference in 2019, with the aim of drawing more attention to this crime and the ways to combat it, as well as to highlight the importance of international cooperation and proactive measures through the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970). This Convention, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, provides an international framework for the prevention of theft and looting and the return and the restitution of stolen cultural property, in parallel with other advances in the fight against illicit trafficking. It is important that every buyer complies with the required due diligence when verifying the provenance of cultural property acquired in order to put an end to the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

We must all join together to fight illicit trafficking of cultural property.


"The return of 17,000 works of art to Iraq and the voluntary handover to Guatemala of a Mayan stela plundered several decades ago are recent and significant testimony to the impact of our commitment."

— Audrey Azoulay, Director General, Message on the occasion of International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property

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