Prevention is the best protection

Katie Paul has re-emphasized that cultural heritage is most vulnerable to depredation during times of conflict and civil disturbance. It is then that museums, archaeological sites and religious institutions are ransacked for their saleable contents – it is then that they are looted to feed the international demand for ‘cultural objects’. These are the so-called spikes in looting and theft that we are accustomed to reading about. As she observes, they are entirely predictable and they could happen anywhere, though just exactly where is a geopolitical uncertainty. They must be treated as a global problem. What can be done about it? The answer is hardly rocket science. We need to stop people buying and selling illicitly traded material. In other words, we need to reduce demand. And I am not just talking about material illicitly traded by Daesh, not just about material illicitly traded from Syria, not just about material illicitly traded from the MENA region. I am talking about material that has been looted and illicitly traded from anywhere in the world. We need a proactive global solution to a global problem, and we need it now. The best way to protect cultural heritage is to prevent people buying and selling illicit material. Prevention is the best protection.