Statement Regarding the United States of America’s Intention to Withdraw from UNESCO

Statement by the United States Delegation to the Forty-first session of the World Heritage Committee

Statement from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), American Alliance of Museums (AAM), American Anthropological Association (AAA), American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Society for Classical Studies (SCS), U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS), and U.S. National Committee of ICOMOS (US/ICOMOS) Regarding the United States of America’s Intention to Withdraw from UNESCO

On October 12, 2017, the United States announced its decision to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2018. A founding member of the Organization in 1945, the United States has benefited from UNESCO’s guiding precepts and principles in its efforts to preserve humanity’s shared heritage.

The United States was the first State to ratify UNESCO’s 1972 World Heritage Convention. The 23 U.S. World Heritage sites reflect the universal values of our natural and cultural heritage. These sites include Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed, the Statue of Liberty, which stands at the entrance to New York Harbor as an international symbol of freedom, and sites that reflect our country’s multicultural past from the dwellings and ceremonial buildings of the Pueblo Indians, to the defensive architecture of San Juan, to Jefferson’s plantation at Monticello. The United States’ unique contribution was recognition that natural wonders from Glacier Bay to the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea and from the redwood forests to the Smoky Mountains serve as a bridge among generations and peoples in America and around the world.

Provisions of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict serve to protect archaeological sites, historic structures, and repositories of cultural material from looting and destruction both during armed conflict and transfer through the international market. The 1970 Convention also facilitates loans of cultural objects from museums around the world in order to inform American audiences about the heritage of those outside our borders. Throughout the world, UNESCO supports the protection of culture in the face of terrorist attacks, armed conflict, and natural disasters, recognizing its symbolic power to link communities and strengthen their resilience in the face of war and hardship.

The United States has long strived to protect heritage around the world. Through participation in UNESCO the United States has signaled the importance of international cooperation in education, science, cultural awareness and communication, all of which serve to strengthen ties among nations and societies. These messages stand at the heart of American democracy and underlie the activities of our organizations. Despite its regrettable decision, we call upon the United States to continue to work with UNESCO and the broader international community to promote appreciation of the outstanding value of our shared cultural heritage.

The Archaeological Institute of America promotes archaeological inquiry and public understanding of the material record of the human past to foster an appreciation of diverse cultures and our shared humanity. Founded in the AIA has nearly 220,000 Members and more than 100 local societies in the United States, Canada, and overseas.

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community.

Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association, with 10,000 members, is dedicated to advancing human understanding and applying this understanding to the world’s most pressing problems.

The American Schools of Oriental Research, founded in 1900, is an international organization of archaeologists, historians, linguists, and cultural heritage professionals who initiate, encourage, and support research into, and public understanding of, the cultures and history of the Near East and wider Mediterranean.

The Association of Art Museum Directors advances the profession by cultivating leadership capabilities of directors, advocating for the field, and fostering excellence in art museums. An agile, issues-driven organization, AAMD has three desired outcomes: engagement, leadership, and shared learning. Further information about AAMD’s professional practice guidelines and position papers is available at www.aamd.org.

The Society for Classical Studies, founded in 1869 as the American Philological Association, is the largest scholarly society in the field of Classics in North America. Its mission is to advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the Greek and Roman world and its enduring legacy.

The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield is dedicated to preventing destruction and theft of cultural property during armed conflict and natural disasters worldwide. The name, Blue Shield, comes from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which specifies a blue shield as the symbol for marking protected cultural property. USCBS is an affiliated national committee of Blue Shield (International).

The U.S. National Committee of ICOMOS (US/ICOMOS) is part of the worldwide ICOMOS network of people, institutions, government agencies and private entities who support the conservation of the World’s heritage. Since 1965 US/ICOMOS has worked to deliver the best of international historic preservation and heritage conservation work to the U.S. domestic preservation dialogue, while sharing and interpreting for the world the unique American historic preservation system.

Past President of USCBS Honored

Founder USCBS Honored

Left to right:
Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, President Blue Shield (International)
Professor Friedrich Schipper, General Secretary, Austrian National Committee of the Blue Shield
Cori Wegener, Founder, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer in the office of the Provost of the Smithsonian Institution

Corine Wegener, Founder of USCBS honored

The Plenary Session of the General Assembly of the Blue Shield (International) was held in Vienna, Austria on September 13, 2017. Karl von Habsburg, President of Blue Shield (International) presented Cori Wegener with the Blue Shield President’s Award, an antique military saber.

The award was given in recognition of her work as a member of the U.S. military. During her tour of duty in Baghdad, May 2003 to March 2004, Ms. Wegener was instrumental in the protection of cultural property of Iraq.

A second award was presented to Colonel Kèba Sangaré of Mali, in absentia. He was honored for his work in protecting the cultural property of Timbuktu following the reconquest of the region in January 2013.

USCBS Presents Awards for Outstanding Public Service

On March 8, 2017, Nancy C. Wilkie, President, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, presented the USCBS Outstanding Public Service Award for the Protection of Cultural Property to Representatives Eliot Engel and Ed Royce, who were instrumental in the passage of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act H.R. 1493/S. 1887.

Full text of the USCBS Awards

USCBS Participates in LCCHP 2017 Annual Conference

USCBS President Nancy Wilkie, Knox Thames, and Elizabeth Varner at the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation 2017 Annual Conference

USCBS participated in the 2017 Annual Conference of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, held at Georgetown University Law School, Washington, DC on March 10, 2017.  The focus of the conference was Cultural Heritage Law and Policy Updates for which USCBS organized a panel addressing the topic: US Committee of the Blue Shield and US Policy Perspectives on Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict.

Speakers included:

Nancy C. Wilkie, President, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield; Member, Interim Board, Blue Shield (International), who provided an  update on recent Blue Shield activities, including the presentation of the USCBS Outstanding Public Service Award for the Protection of Cultural Property to Representatives Eliot Engel and Ed Royce, who were instrumental in the passage of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act H.R. 1493/S. 1887.

Full text of the USCBS Awards

 

Mark Iozzi, Democratic Counsel • House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Representative Eliot EngelMark Iozzi, Democratic Counsel • House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Representative Eliot Engel

Jessica Kelch, Policy Coordinator, Counsel at House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Representative Ed Royce

Knox Thames, Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; U.S. Department of State

Elizabeth Varner, Staff Curator, U.S. Department of the Interior, Interior Museum Program; Adjunct Professor, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law; Board Member, Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation

 

US/ICOMOS and USCBS sign a Memorandum of Understanding

James Reap and Nancy Wilkie, President USCBS sign MOU between US/ICOMOS and USCBS

On March 11, 2017, In Washington D.C., the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (represented by Nancy Wilkie, President USCBS) and US/ICOMOS (represented by James Reap, Officer of US/ICOMOS and Board Member of USCBS) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for the protection, preservation, and restoration of cultural sites, monuments and objects harmed during armed conflict and natural disasters.

As part of the agreement, both organizations pledge to work collaboratively to assist entities responsible for the protection of cultural sites, monuments and repositories in the case of armed conflict and natural disaster; to compile information concerning tangible cultural heritage located in conflict and disaster zones; and to carry out programs for training military personnel in the law of armed conflict as it pertains to the protection of tangible cultural heritage.

 

President Signs Engel Bill to Stop ISIS From Looting Antiquities

Breaking news.

New Law Cracks Down on Funding Source for ISIS While Protecting Syria’s Cultural Heritage

President Barack Obama signs H.R. 2751, the ÒFDA Food Safety Modernization Act,Ó in the Oval Office, Jan. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

May 9, 2016

Press Release

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed the President’s signature into law of Rep. Engel’s legislation to crack down on the sale of artifacts looted by ISIS from cultural sites in Syria.  The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act would contribute to the comprehensive policy of degrading and destroying ISIS without risking American lives or costing American taxpayers.

The new law imposes tough new import restrictions on antiquities that are trafficked out of Syria, bringing U.S. policy in line with a UN Security Council Resolution that called on governments to deny funding to ISIS by preventing trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property.

“As part of America’s effort to degrade and destroy ISIS, we need to do all we can to cut off resources for this terrorist group.  Today, we’re putting a new tool to use.  My legislation will crack down on the trafficking of looted Syrian artifacts, which has put millions of dollars in the hands of ISIS extremists,” said Rep. Engel.  “This legislation has earned support from lawmakers of both parties and in both Houses, as well as numerous cultural heritage preservation groups.  I want to thank the President for signaling his support as well, and for signing this bill into law.”

Numerous outside groups and experts voiced their support for the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act when it passed the House late last month.

Deborah Lehr, Chair of the Antiquities Coalition, said, “The passage of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act is a critical, bipartisan demonstration of American leadership. The looting of antiquities is a direct threat to American national security and to humanity’s shared heritage. By closing the U.S. market for blood antiquities from Syria, the United States is cutting off a key source of terrorist financing. We applaud Representatives Engel, Keating, Royce, and Smith, as well as the entire House and Senate, along with the many individual citizens and groups whose hard work and dedication made the passage of this bill possible. We look forward to working together with them all to ensure its implementation.”

Brian I. Daniels, Director of Research at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania Museum, said, “The protection of human history is a non-partisan issue. Representative Engel has demonstrated great leadership in working with Chairman Royce and other members of the House and Senate in authoring a bipartisan bill that makes a difference in the preservation of cultural heritage.  H.R. 1493 ends the incentive for ISIS to loot antiquities by making it clear that there is no legal market for the artifacts stolen from Syria during the present conflict. But this bill goes even further by encouraging Federal agencies to work together on preserving human history—and holding them accountable to do just that. In recent years, we have watched how terror groups have conspired to erase the history of ethnic and religious groups that they oppose. This bill is insurance that does not happen.”

Patty Gerstenblith, Distinguished Research Professor at the DePaul University College of Law, said, “With this legislation, the United States has taken a significant step toward reducing the destruction of cultural heritage in the Syrian conflict and preventing the sale of looted antiquities from providing income to ISIL and others engaged in the conflict. The 15 cultural heritage organizations that supported this legislation thank Congressman Engel for his leadership in providing a practical response to the funding of terrorism.”

(Dr. Gerstenblith is a USCBS Board Member)

On June 1, 2015, Representative Engel’s legislation unanimously passed the House.  The Senate approved a slightly modified version of the legislation on April 13, which the House passed by voice vote on April 26.

The law imposes new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities.  The law provides exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for temporary protection and restoration.  Restrictions will remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.

Additionally, the law expresses support for a new interagency coordinating body to enhance cooperation among the government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, already working on cultural preservation issues.  It also takes steps to enhance Congressional oversight of this issue.

Representative Engel introduced the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act along with Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. William R. Keating (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

See original post here »

Full text of the bill as amended and passed »

USCBS Board Member Testifies in The House

gerstenblith_pattySecretary of U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, Patty Gerstenblith, testifies before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee’s Task
Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing

 

 


Testimony of Dr. Patty Gerstenblith
On Behalf of Herself and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield

“Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS”

Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing U.S. House Financial Services Committee
April 19, 2016

Chairman Fitzpatrick and Ranking Member Lynch: Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony and to address the Members of the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing on the subject of “Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS”. I am submitting this testimony both in my personal capacity1 and on behalf of the United States Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS).2 The United States Committee of the Blue Shield was formed in 2006. The name, Blue Shield, comes from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which specifies a blue shield as the symbol for marking protected cultural property and is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross. Among the current activities of the USCBS is the creation of “no-strike” lists or inventories of cultural sites (including historic and religious structures, archaeological sites and repositories such as museums, archives and libraries) in parts of the world where the United States is engaged in armed conflict. Through working with the Department of Defense, USCBS helps the United States fulfill its obligations to protect cultural heritage during armed conflict.

See her full testimony here »

 

HR 1493 passed by the Senate as amended by the Senate

On April 13th, the United States Senate passed the antiquities bill, HR 1493 as amended by the Senate.

See full text … BILLS-114hr1493eas

To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to 
 political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, 
and for other purposes.

The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield is mentioned as a consulting organization.

BILL TO HALT ISIS ANTIQUITIES LOOTING ADVANCES IN SENATE

Engel Legislation Would Crack Down on Terrorist Financing, Protect Syria’s Fragile History

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed approval of his legislation, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R.1493), by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  Representative Engel’s bill would help curb funding for ISIS by cracking down on the trafficking of artifacts looted from cultural sites in Syria.

“ISIS is pocketing millions of dollars by trafficking irreplaceable artifacts on the black market.  Whatever they can’t loot, they’re destroying in an effort to wipe away history,” said Rep. Engel. “My legislation would make it harder for ISIS to peddle looted antiquities as a funding source, and I applaud my Senate colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee for moving this measure forward.  Today’s action is a great example of what we can accomplish when we put our heads together and work in a bipartisan way to advance American interests abroad.”

Representative Engel’s legislation unanimously passed the House on June 1, 2015. The bill would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities. The legislation would provide exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for protection and restoration. Restrictions would remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.

The bill also calls on the President to establish a new interagency body to enhance cooperation among the government agencies already working on cultural preservation and improves Congressional oversight of this issue.

The bill has the support of the Society for American Archaeology, the American Alliance of Museums, the Getty Trust Syrian American Council, the American Anthropological Association, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Antiquities Coalition, the Archaeological Institute of America, the International Council of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Preservation Action, the Society for Historical Archaeology, the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, and others.

 

Grassley praised committee passage of HR 1493 bill

New Committee Passes Bill Restricting ISIS’ Ability to Profit from Antiquities Sales

politicalnews.me Jan 29, 2016 – Committee Passes Bill Restricting ISIS’ Ability to Profit from Antiquities Sales

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley praised unanimous committee passage of a bill substantially similar to a bill he co-sponsored to restrict the ability of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to profit from the sale of looted antiquities.

“We need to destroy ISIS rather than support its funding,” Grassley said. “This bill will help by restricting the import of items to the United States. It’s a small but important step in hampering the ability of ISIS terrorists to profit from the sale of looted antiquities.”

The Committee on Foreign Relations passed a measure that gives the federal government the authority to impose import restrictions on Syrian antiquities, waiving the provisions of current law that require a request from the country of origin. The bill is similar to the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act that Grassley and Sens. Bob Casey and David Perdue introduced last year. The committee-passed bill is based on a partner bill passed by the House of Representatives.

Grassley’s statement submitted to the committee record follows here.


Statement of Senator Charles E. Grassley
Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act
Business Meeting of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
January 28, 2016

Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, Members of the Committee:

I’d like to thank this Committee for taking up the “Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act.” This bill is critically important to ensure that the Administration has the authority to impose import restrictions on antiquities from Syria, which is a key source of funding for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

I joined Senator Casey and Senator Perdue to introduce a Senate companion to the House bill that would place trade restrictions against the importation of looted archeological and ethnological materials. It’s a similar measure to one that I won enactment of in 2003 when Iraq’s antiquities were being looted.

The brutal and barbaric acts carried out by ISIS are beyond comprehension. The senseless and inhumane brutality these individuals carried out against innocents is truly shocking and disgraceful. ISIS has executed thousands, including women and children. Many more have been kidnapped, enslaved, abused and raped.

ISIS is also destroying and selling the archeological heritage that has survived for thousands of years. It’s reprehensible that there are people engaged in a black market to buy these artifacts, thereby underwriting this brutal Islamist militant group.

The chaos and disorder in Syria and Iraq have opened the door to opportunists who wish to enrich themselves in dealing with stolen and looted antiquities. The least we can do, here in Congress, is shut down the U.S. market for these artifacts. Americans should not be underwriting brutality.

We need to put an end to the destruction and looting of irreplaceable artifacts and historical records like those from the Mosul Museum, Nineveh, and Nimrud. These objects are a material record of humanity.

We need to destroy ISIS rather than support its funding. This bill will help by restricting the import of items to the United States. It’s a small but important step in hampering the ability of ISIS terrorists to profit from the sale of looted antiquities.

I strongly support this bill and encourage members of this committee to support it as well. Thank you.