Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan accepted an award on October 13 in recognition of the State Department’s work to champion cultural heritage. The Archaeological Institute of America cited the State Department’s long history in leadership in this area, especially as a market-country leader in implementation of the UN treaty of trafficking in cultural property, as well as extensive work in protecting Iraqi antiquities. Mentioned were the State Department’s work to establish a conservation institute in Erbil and their work to collaborate with law enforcement to mitigate and prevent further destruction of heritage sites across Iraq and Syria.
In addition, ECA was also recognized for providing funding, training, and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, to better detect and disrupt trafficking in objects of cultural heritage, as well as cultivating public-private partnerships to maximize the impact of cultural heritage protection programs.
“Public-private partnerships to safeguard cultural heritage are especially important in today’s world, said Assistant Secretary Ryan. “This is the most challenging moment for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage that the world has faced since the Second World War.”
Also honored at the event were U.S. Representatives Eliot Engel of New York and Ed Royce of California for spearheading the “Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act” which was signed into law in May. The Act imposes import restrictions on antiquities trafficked out of Syria and brings the U.S. policy in line with a UN Security Council Resolution that calls on governments to deny funding to ISIL by protecting cultural property. The Act also spurred the State Department to establish an interagency committee to better coordinate the U.S. government approach to protecting cultural property.