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US Diplomatic Leadership and Cultural Heritage Protection

Palmyra Arch

Monumental Arch of Palmyra (By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12163785)

PDAA is collaborating with DACOR on a program on U.S. Diplomatic Leadership and Cultural Heritage Protection. PDAA member Larry Schwartz will discuss the topic at a luncheon on Friday, July 13, from noon to 2:00 p.m.

For generations, the practice of cultural heritage destruction – from souvenir hunting to systematic exploitation and destruction for scholarly or religious purposes – has been largely ignored as a U.S. diplomatic priority. After all, American art dealers and collectors, as well as scholars and institutions make up one of the world’s largest markets for historic and cultural artworks. A little-known 1972 UNESCO Convention, adopted to help provide nations with significant protections through bilateral agreements, has been underutilized until recently. With the discovery of evidence that ISIS had been systematically exploiting cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria as a fund-raising mechanism and publicly destroying ancient sites as part of its war on pre-Islamic cultures, many nations in the Middle East have begun to take action to protect themselves against terrorist financing and criminal gangs that exploit the recent regional chaos. In partnership with leading American NGOs and institutions, the United States government is today building partnerships with friends around the globe to restrict illegal trade in cultural heritage.

Larry Schwartz recently retired from the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (2014-2017), where he advocated for bilateral cultural heritage agreements between the United States and countries in the Middle East region. As Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs in New Delhi (2006-2009), in Islamabad (2009-2010), and as Public Diplomacy Director in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (2003-2006) he supported and expanded partnership programs to restore and protect cultural property. Mr. Schwartz is quick to credit the work of many partners in this growing effort, as much work remains to be done globally. Yet he argues that advocating for cultural heritage protections demonstrates America’s respect to partner countries around the world and brings credit to U.S. global leadership.

The luncheon will take place at DACOR Bacon House, 1801 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006, and costs $25. To reserve a place, write to programs@dacorbacon.org.

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