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Mongolia Advances to Prevent Crimes and Offenses against Cultural Property


The cultural and natural heritage is among the priceless and irreplaceable assets, not only of each nation but of humanity as a whole. The estimated value of the movable and immovable cultural property, regardless of whether archeological or ethnological, is immeasurable. Such properties frequently comprise the very substance of society and pass on a wealth of data concerning the people’s origins, history, and customs. The significance of such invaluable assets, unfortunately, makes them the target of damages, as well as robbery, plundering, and illicit import and export.

Deliberate damage and destruction, theft, looting, and illicit trafficking of cultural property are crimes that deprive people of their history and culture and weaken social cohesion. To address these crimes, benchmark legal instruments have been developed, including the 1954 Hague Convention and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols, 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, and the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

In 2021, the Mongolian Parliament adopted a revised version of the “Law on Cultural Heritage Protection” and the “Law on Museums”. In this framework, the Government of Mongolia is making great efforts to facilitate the legal environment for the protection of cultural heritage, introduce good international practices, strengthen the capacity of human resources, increase public awareness about the importance of cultural heritage, prevent risks and combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property. Moreover, the Action Plan of the Government of Mongolia for 2020-2024 includes the ratification of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention and the UNESCO 2001 Convention. In addition, Mongolia is planning to accede to the two (1954 and 1999) Protocols of the UNESCO 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict. 

Being a global issue concerning stakeholders from the public and private sectors as well as local communities, it is important that national and international agencies support awareness raising and capacity building activities for the human resources concerned. While ending the illicit trafficking of cultural objects requires high-level political will, the capacity at the operational level that makes this endeavor effective and sustainable is also crucial. In this regard, the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO with support from the UNESCO Beijing Office organized the “National Consultation on Prevention of Crimes and Offenses against Cultural Property” on 10-11 November 2022, in partnership with Culture and Arts Authority of the Implementing Agency of the Government of Mongolia and Ministry of Culture.

This national consultation held discussions on Mongolia’s past and present efforts in combating crimes against cultural heritage, as well as the future measures and policies that need to be taken. The consultation was opened by a greeting message from Mr. U.Khurelsukh, President of Mongolia, N. Munkhzul, Director of the Government Implementing Agency Culture and Arts Authority, and Dr. Shahbaz Khan, Director of the UNESCO Beijing Office.

The organizers of the national consultation welcomed representatives of international organizations, including the Secretariats of UNESCO’s 1954 Hague Convention and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols, 1970 Convention, 2001 Convention, the Secretariat of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and the World Customs Organization. The presentations of the international speakers raised the knowledge and capacity of key stakeholders in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property in Mongolia. In particular, they serve to build momentum for the initiative to ratify the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention and the UNESCO 2001 Convention. In addition, the presentations helped to raise awareness about the importance of acceding to the two (1954 and 1999) Protocols of the 1954 Hague Convention by explaining benefits of being Party as well as the legislative and military measures under these treaties to prevent crimes against cultural property, but also to present tools on how to better implement the Conventions (in this regard the Secretariat of the 1970 Convention presented for example the soon to be adopted Model Provisions on the Prevention and Fight against the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property).

More than 100 representatives from 20 organizations, including the Ministry of Defense, the National Security Council of Mongolia, the General Intelligence Agency of Mongolia, the National Police Agency, and the Mongolian Academies of Archeology and Paleethnology actively have participated in the national consultation. In addition, representatives of the Department of Culture and Art, museums, cultural centers, and the police of 21 provinces have participated online. As a result of the consultation, a list of 9 recommendations on administrative and legislative activities that need to be taken to enhance the protection of cultural property have been prepared and will be shared with key government organizations.

Until the second national consultation which is scheduled in two years’ time, inter-sectoral collaboration will be strengthened to implement the recommendations adopted at the first national consultation. In addition, further efforts will also be spent to reinforce the capacity of the Special Unit recently set up to fight crimes against cultural property.

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