Saturday, June 7, 2008

State Department Slush Fund for Archaeological Activists?

The State Department recently announced an almost $1 million grant to the World Monuments Fund (WMF), for use in restoring a temple in Cambodia:

The grant is being administered by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), through the so-called "Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Heritage Preservation." For more,

But the Ambassador's Fund is not only used to fund organizations solely interested in working "in country" to address cultural preservation issues. Rather, the fund has also been used to provide money to organizations that also actively lobby ECA to impose import restrictions on cultural artifacts that have been opposed by American collectors, museums, auction houses, and the small businesses of the numismatic trade.

Prior posts have raised questions about the use of ECA funds to benefit the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI). See
Looking further into the Cambodian issue, I have also come across the fact that another archaeological pressure group, Heritage Watch, has also been the beneficiary of ECA's financial largess:

In March, a Heritage Watch representative appeared before ECA's Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) to argue for the renewal of the current MOU with Cambodia. The renewal in its current form was opposed by the AAMD and others on the grounds that Cambodia had failed to make the requisite showings under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) to justify the renewal. Goli Ameri, the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of ECA, is also the decision maker on the renewal, which remains pending.

So there you have it. ECA has provided grant money to Heritage Watch and CAARI. Heritage Watch and CAARI have appeared before the ECA's CPAC to argue for import restrictions. CAARI certainly has done more, including lobbying ECA behind the scenes on behalf of Cyprus with respect to the MOU. ECA, Heritage Watch and CAARI's funding source, is also responsible for deciding to impose import restrictions on cultural artifacts.

Does anyone else feel something is wrong with decision making on import restrictions being made where there are such incestuous relationships between ECA and archaeological pressure groups? Is it possible that at least some of this grant money is being used to at least indirectly support lobbying campaigns in favor of import restrictions? Doesn't all this, at a minimum, raise potential conflict of interest questions?

1 comment:

Cultural Property Observer said...

The link to information about the State Department's funding of Heritage Watch's activities has moved to: ("In its first few years of operations, Heritage Watch has accomplished a great deal. With generous funding from the U.S. Department of State, it launched a national public awareness campaign targeting both those who loot and buy antiquities.").