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Memorandum of Understanding between the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM)on Combating the Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property

Recognizing that the question of cultural heritage transcends frontiers,

Noting that the pillaging of cultural property is a worldwide phenomenon,

Believing that illicit traffic in cultural property constitutes a crime against the heritage of all mankind,

Aware that Customs within the requirements of their national administrations have an important contribution to make in the fight against the illicit traffic in cultural property,

Aware that the role of ICOM is essential in protecting heritage,

Believing that only greater co-operation between the cultural heritage protection authorities and Customs authorities at international, regional and national level will increase the effectiveness of Customs controls,

Believing also that such co-operation will be of benefit to all parties interested in combating the illicit traffic in cultural property,

THE WORLD CUSTOMS ORGANIZATION (otherwise designated in official texts as the "Customs Co-operation Council") AND THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF MUSEUMS have agreed as follows :

(i) In order to strengthen the co-operation between the two Organizations in combating the illicit traffic in cultural property, the WCO Secretariat and the ICOM Secretariat will send each other any general information of common interest;

(ii) The two Secretariats will invite each other, as observers, to meetings they organize which are of common interest for combating the illicit traffic in cultural property;

(iii) To combat the illicit traffic in cultural property, the two Secretariats will jointly draft and implement, each in its own field of competence, measures to improve co-operation and information exchange between Customs authorities and ICOM member authorities, with a view to making the fraud analyses and profiles prepared for Customs services more effective;

(iv) The ICOM Secretariat will provide the WCO Secretariat with information to help Customs services better understand the importance of issues related to the illicit traffic in cultural property;

(v) The WCO Secretariat will provide the ICOM Secretariat with information to give heritage protection authorities and professionals a better understanding of Customs authorities' tasks and problems;

(vi) The two Secretariats, in conjunction with UNESCO, will jointly devise publications to raise the awareness of, and inform, the services responsible for combating the illicit traffic in cultural property;

(vii) Within the limits of its resources, ICOM will collaborate in the training activities concerning cultural property that the WCO Secretariat will organize for Customs enforcement officers and will work in close collaboration with the WCO Secretariat to enable museum professionals to pass on their knowledge and experience to the Customs services responsible for combating this type of trafficking;

(viii) The two Secretariats will exchange training activity programmes on the illicit traffic in cultural property and, provided there is interest, will endeavour to ensure that Customs issues are tackled in workshops organized in conjunction with ICOM, and that the problems encountered by museum professionals and ICOM members are tackled in Customs training. Subject to the resources available, the Secretariats will do their utmost to ensure that trainers from one Secretariat (or its representative) participate in the training activities of the other.


Done at Brussels, on 25 January 2000.


Updated: 6 June 2005