Mr. Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov of the Russian Federation, who serves as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General, was in June appointed as head of the newly created United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres endorsed Mr. Voronkov’s ascension into the office which was established by the General Assembly resolution 71/291 on 15 June 2017, and on his part, the Russian diplomat recently explained the best ways to ground terrorists.
Voronkov, 54, spoke during Wednesday’s U.N. General Council meeting where discussions where held on terrorism and protection of cultural heritage sites.
The veteran Russian foreign service officer who has served as Kremlin’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna since 2011 talked about how jihadists, particularly in war-torn zones, destroy not only lives and property but also target World Heritage Sites in order eliminate historical roots and cultural diversity.
The first U.N. Under-Secretary (Counter-Terrorism Office) said there is a strong link between looting or illicit trafficking of cultural objects and terrorism sponsorship.
However, Mr. Voronkov noted that measures – resolutions and legal frameworks – have been put in place to forestall cash flow to terrorist organizations around the world.
In his words, ‘The goal is clear…terrorists who attack cultural heritage sites are out to undermine national identity and international law…They do so because they understand the significance of heritage; it constitutes a source of identity and cohesion not only for particular communities but the world community as such.’
He continued in the speech, ‘To effectively protect our cultural heritage, we are required to make every effort to implement this international legal and normative framework by strengthening international cooperation.’
Mr. Voronkov also highlighted an all-out approach from Member States as the “key for an effective action.”
‘There is more to what we can do,’ the PhD holder from Moscow State University asserted.
He clamored for a stronger focus on investigation, cross-border cooperation and exchange of information, including a chance to work with private and public-sector partners to promote supply chain integrity and stop the illicit sale of cultural property.
Among the numerous positions in his portfolio, Mr. Voronkov also serves on the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), during which time he led several delegations to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. He was Director of the Department of European Cooperation (2008-2011).
At the meeting, Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) who communicated via a video link from Vienna, told the Council that countries must be helped to detect stolen cultural property as part of the work to dismantle criminal networks.
In Yury’s words, ‘This gathering presents us with an opportunity to further strengthen efforts aims at safeguarding vulnerable cultural property in various war zones…It empowers us to pursue longer-term measures to prevent terrorists and criminals profiting from trafficking of cultural heritage.’
He stressed the need for countries to co-operate in the detection of stolen cultural property and improve inter-dependency in the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of cases related to trafficking in cultural property.
‘There is no other way we can protect these precious cultural heritage from being lost forever,’ he added.
Among dignitaries who made contributions at the meeting despite their absence are: Jürgen Stock, Secretary-General of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and Alessandro Bianchi, Project Leader of Cultural Heritage Protection in Italy’s Ministry of Culture.