What other countries do to aid Mali’s cause

Dogon figure sold at Sotheby's auction in 1999
The City Review
Dogon figure sold at Sotheby's auction in 1999

Mali’s internal efforts demonstrate that the country has taken positive action to protect its cultural patrimony, but unfortunately it is not enough to stem the tide of looting and the illicit trade. Although the country has taken great initiative in the battle against looting, as a developing nation, Mali has limited resources for the protection of archaeological sites and the policing of its borders (McIntosh, 1995). Even so, the nation dedicates an admirable portion of its meager budget towards these efforts. So long as there is an international demand for Malian artifacts, there will be a need for international cooperation to combat looting.

Thankfully, other countries are collaborating with Mali to show their commitment to preserving the world’s cultural heritage. In 2005 Norway launched a UNESCO Funds-in-Trust project to aid the countries of Mali, Ethiopia, and Senegal. This project aims to preserve and document archaeological collections and archaeological sites, raise awareness of the looting crisis, and educate local officials and the public. ICOM, whose members include institutions from across the globe, has drafted a “red list” for Mali of categories of artifacts that are most affected by looting. ICOM appeals to museums, collectors, dealers, and auction houses not to buy these objects, and provides information on the legislation protecting them. Preventive measures such as these attempt to decrease the overseas demand for stolen artifacts, and they are helpful and necessary. In January of this year French customs officials seized more than 650 artifacts from Mali being smuggled through the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris (link). These objects were presumably on their way to the US, where they would be sold to dealers and private collectors. Such instances demonstrate the need for US cooperation to combat the looting problem. The United States can take action as well and support Mali’s cause by renewing its MOU with Mali.

—Claire Hilmer