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Saturday, October 28, 2017

War, Antiquities, and Responses: Colgate University Conference on Preserving Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict
Monuments Men author Robert Edsel speaking at Colgate University.

From the looters shovel to the auction gavel, large scale cultural property theft and destruction occur during times of instability. That is how Dr. Michael Danti framed the discussion for last week's conference titled Preserving Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict, sponsored by Colgate University and the Penn Museum–Near Eastern Section.

Danti is a classics professor at Colgate, a consulting scholar with the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and an archaeologist with expertise in the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria. He described the current wave of cultural property crime from conflict zones as "voracious."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

US announces intent to withdraw from UNESCO
The United States will withdraw from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO), effective December 31, 2018.

Today's announcement comes as no surprise to cultural property watchers. The US Mission to the United Nations said in July that "[t]he United States is currently evaluating the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO," prompted by the UN cultural agency's decision "to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory and a World Heritage site despite protests by the United States, Israel, and other countries," according to the US Mission.

Nikki Haley, America's ambassador to the UN, remarked this past summer that UNESCO's vote was "tragic." "It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable UN agency," she said.

The longstanding tension between the US and UNESCO is described in CHL's 2013 blog post, No Money, No Vote: A Closer Look at the Strained Relationship Between the U.S. and UNESCO. The events it chronicles set the stage for today's notification by the US State Department to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of its intent to set up an American permanent observer mission after officially withdrawing from the UN agency next year.