United States and Libya Sign Agreement to Protect Libya’s Cultural Heritage

March 9, 2018

On February 23, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs I. Steven Goldstein and Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Under Secretary for Political Affairs Lutfi Almughrabi signed a landmark bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on cultural property protection at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State’s Treaty Room. This agreement is part of the ongoing cooperation between the United States and Libya’s Government of National Accord.  It also underscores the United States’ global commitment to cultural heritage protection and preservation.

The Libya request for a cultural property agreement was reviewed by the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee which submitted its recommendation to the State Department prior to agreement negotiation under the U.S. law implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  Categories of archaeological material representing Libya’s archaeological heritage dating from 12,000 B.C. through 1750 A.D. and Ottoman ethnological material from Libya dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D. are included in import restrictions that are implemented through the agreement. Restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and trafficking and are among the many ways the United States is combatting terror financing and disrupting the global market in illegal antiquities. These restrictions continue similar restrictions implemented by the U.S. government on an emergency basis on December 5, 2017.

Through this agreement, the United States and Libya have also agreed to work together on several areas including:

  • To encourage further interchange of Libya’s archaeological and Ottoman ethnological heritage for cultural, educational, and scientific purposes.
  • For the Libyan government to engage other countries having a significant import trade in archaeological and ethnological materials from Libya to deter pillage of its cultural property.
  • For the U.S. government to facilitate technical assistance to Libya in its efforts to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of Libya.

The United States now has similar bilateral agreements with 17 countries around the world, as well as emergency import restrictions on cultural property from Iraq and Syria.