On Heritage Protection Efforts
On February 23, 2018 the United States and the Government of Libya signed a historic agreement to close the American border to Libyan blood antiquities.
In commemorating the one year anniversary of signing the memorandum of understanding, Ambassador Bughaighis was honored to participate in part of a public event panel hosted by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers in Washington, partnering with the Antiquity Coalition and the Smithsonian’s Free Sackler Galleries to raise awareness and discuss the Responses and policies of the U.S. and the International Community to the threats facing the Cultural Heritage in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region impacted by the political and security conflicts.
Given that Libya continues to face many of the same challenges, Ambassador Bughaighis provided some additional perspectives on issues related to cultural heritage protection efforts and antiquities trafficking and especially how closing U.S. borders to Libyan antiquities has impacted preservation efforts.
Libya’s cultural heritage encompasses world history with its prehistoric rock art, ancient Punic, Greek and Roman ruins and masterpieces from the Byzantine, Medieval and Ottoman periods.
It also spans the faiths of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Criminals and terrorist groups took further advantage of the security vacuum and are stripping Libya of this birthright and using these items to fund their deadly violence, further destabilizing Libya and the world.
Libya’s pillaged artifacts are being smuggled alongside other contraband such as guns, drugs and even people across the desserts and across the Mediterranean to Europe, and -yes- across the Atlantic to the Unites States.
Through the Agreement signed one year ago now, the American art market- the world’s largest –has shut down to Libya stolen cultural objects.
Furthermore, Libya and the United States are working to cut off a crucial source of criminal and terrorist financing. At the same time with this agreement, Libya has also built a bridge by proudly committing itself to increased cultural, educational, and scholarly exchange with the United States.
However, Libya prefers that the international visitors have the opportunity to flock to such wonders as Cyrene, Leptis Magna, and Sabratha to see s these amazing artifacts where they belong. Hope is that peace will make that possible soon.
Acting pursuant to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Libya believes all affected countries should unify efforts and call upon other market nations in Europe, the Gulf, and Asia to follow Washington’s lead, and close their own borders to conflict antiquities. Libya likewise call upon neighbors to join Libya and Egypt in partnering with the United States on bilateral agreements to close the world’s largest market to all looted art and antiquities from North Africa and the Middle East.
Noteworthy, some of the greatest Successes of signing the Memorandum of Understanding between the Gov. of the US and Gov. of Libya was adopting an action plan 2018-2022, of which the Expected Results are:
-Higher rates of law enforcement interdiction of trafficked Libyan cultural objects.
-Building capacity and data resources to better protect Libyan cultural objects.
-Wider public outreach resulting in better protection of Libyan heritage sites and objects.
-Increased lawful access to Libyan cultural heritage.