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Home > Crisis in Iraq > Ongoing projects > Stolen cultural property database 
Stolen cultural property database 

In April 2003, UNESCO has committed itself to develop a database on Iraqi stolen cultural property in order to respond effectively to the problem of illicit traffic. 

When the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad was looted in April 2003 at least 13,000 objects went missing, though about 4000 objects were voluntarily returned later. Large-scale looting of archaeological sites, like Isin and Umma, is ongoing. The amount of cultural property lost through looting of archaeological sites is incalculable.

To confront this immense threat to Iraqi cultural heritage, the UNESCO-INTERPOL "Special Arrangement in accordance with article 4 (4) of the Cooperation Agreement", signed on July 2003, ruled the establishment of a database for Iraqi cultural stolen property.

UNESCO will take the scientific leadership in the coordination of expertise and will keep the database updated in close cooperation with international scientific institutions and research bodies. INTERPOL will have the responsibility to make the database operative in the fight against illicit traffic through the dissemination of information to the police corps and custom departments around the world.

Expected results

  • Build a database to satisfy immediate requirements for the tracking of missing Iraqi artifacts worldwide
  • Diffuse information on Iraqi stolen cultural heritage, preventing and fighting illicit traffic
  • Avoid duplication and combine efforts of different institutions in cataloguing and recording of cultural heritage data
  • Develop a standard-model of cultural heritage documentation that can be adopted in post-conflict situations in other geographical contexts.

On 3 May 2004, UNESCO's division of cultural heritage organized at UNESCO's HQ a panel of ICOM experts to oversee the preparation of the UNESCO-Interpol database, before the achievement of the software completion.

For more information on INTERPOL's action with the cooperation of UNESCO on cultural property stolen in Iraq please visit their website.

Please visit also ICOM's website to consult the Emergency Red List of Iraqi Antiquities at Risk.

Donor: Government of Switzerland

Start Date 01 Jan 2004
End Date 01 Jan 2005
Total Project Cost 176 280,00 USD
Lead Organization / Sector / Office UNESCO (Division of Cultural Heritage)
Associated Organization(s) INTERPOL, ICOM, State Board of Antiquities of Iraq