Workshop participants. Dan Mahoney is in the back, 5 from the left. Photo courtesy of Peter Heredrich.
On behalf of AIYS, board member Daniel Mahoney attended a “Strategic Planning for Regional Cultural Property Protection” workshop organized in Cairo on February 22-23, 2020. This was organized by the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) for the CAORC member centers and allied organizations in regard to two main topics: (1) an update and explanation of the bilateral agreements the U.S. is making with countries in MENA with the most immediate aim of stopping the importation of looted/stolen archaeological and ethnographic cultural property, and (2) the planning for two future workshops (sponsored by ARCE from a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo) aimed at bringing together CAORC members and government officials from the MENA countries to discuss topics such as site management and collection documentation and inventory systems.
The major outcome of the meeting was the planning of the next two workshops. The first will take place at ACOR (Jordan) when possible, with its theme of ‘site management’.
It is hoped that these workshops will further communications between MENA government antiquities professionals in order to share and promote best practices for cultural heritage/property protection.
In regards specifically to Yemen and the ‘MoU’ (Memorandum of Understanding) for the bilateral agreement for cultural property protection, this is the current status: On February 7, a unilateral emergency order was issued by the U.S. via the Federal Register for import restrictions imposed on archaeological and ethnological material from Yemen. This can remain in place for up to eight years, but cannot be renewed beyond this. During this period of time, a bilateral agreement must be settled, which will last for five years and can be renegotiated and renewed every five years thereafter. There was a hearing and meeting for this bilateral MoU in Washington, D.C. this past October, but the final results have yet to come about. It is expected later this year. The MoU is necessary because the 1970 UNESCO Convention for Cultural Property Protection is not automatically enforced in the U.S. without an additional agreement.
The reason for the recent upsurge in agreements for the MENA region is partly because the U.S. government sees them as a tool towards national security because the illegal trafficking of cultural property is often used to fund terrorism. In addition, increased regional/local MENA interest in the protection of cultural property leads to the strengthening of civil society and local communities.