The International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities

Protecting Egyptian Antiquities: A Public Private Partnership

Since the revolution in January 2011, modern day Egypt has fallen victim to the scourge of international antiquities crime and illicit activity. Times of turmoil and uncertainty fuel the problem. While archaeological looting is as old as the sites being looted, there is still large profit to be made in the plundering of ancient sites. Recognizing this illegal opportunity, cultural racketeering – the systematic theft of art and antiquities by organized crime syndicates – has risen in Egypt and other countries suffering political and economic uncertainty.

The Government of Egypt and the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities (ICPEA) have launched a public-private partnership to combat cultural racketeering in Egypt.

What are the Public-Private Partnership Goals?

The Public Private Partnership is an initiative to harness the power of Western and Egyptian cultural and business leaders to protect Egyptian antiquities.

The Government of Egypt and the Coalition have agreed upon a series of short, medium and long term programs to strike at the core of the cultural racketeering. These initiatives include:

  • Physical Site Protection – training programs for officials at the sites and support for programs to better protect the sites where necessary.
  • Cultural Heritage Inventories – the first nationwide inventory for all excavated antiquities will be conducted – led by Egyptian archaeologists and the Ministry of Antiquities – and made widely available through publication on the web.
  • Ancient Records Digitization -  scanning ancient records to protect the content and ensure accessibility on the Internet.
  • Cultural Heritage Education Campaigns - design and implementation of cultural heritage education programs around major archaeological sites.
  • Small Business Incentives - in partnership with Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Women Program and the Egyptian Government, the coalition plans to promote the development of small businesses around tourist sites to create economic incentive for their protection.

This partnership is the first of its kind, and requires the full support and participation of all parties to succeed. If a success, the coalition plans to use this model to support other governments under attack from cultural racketeering.

How serious is cultural racketeering?

Since the January 2011 Revolution, organized criminal syndicates have begun systematic looting of cultural sites in Egypt.  Museums, warehouses and existing archaeological digs have all been subject to attack, with the illegal obtained art and artifacts showing up in major capitals and countries.

stolen artifacts

Items are stolen from museums, archaeological sites, cemeteries, storage facilities, and even from underneath homes. What cultural racketeering leaves behind is a trail of destruction that is equally as devastating as the loss of the artifacts themselves.

Before and after looting

What are the consequences of inaction?

It is not simply the past that is being robbed when antiquities are looted. It is the future. Antiquities looting threatens the livelihoods of the Egyptian people who suffer from lost tourism revenue. In addition, cultural heritage can be harnessed a tool for economic vitality. 

  • Tourism accounts for 11.3 percentage of GDP
  • In 2011, pre-Revolution, tourism accounted for $12.5 billion in revenue. Last year, it was down to $10.5 billion.

What is the International Coalition To Protect Egyptian Antiquities?

The International Coalition to Protection Egyptian Antiquities (ICPEA) is an organization of archaeological, cultural heritage and business organizations that have come together to protect archaeological sites and historic cultural artifacts in Egypt. 

  • Led by the Capitol Archaeological Institute at the George Washington University, the group includes the Archaeological Institute of America, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the National Geographic Society and the U.S.-Egypt Business Council.

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