Sunday, May 22, 2011

Conflict of Interest Watch: AIA Confirms that State Department Delegates Agreement Authority to Private Archaeological Groups

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) has further publicised negotiations between private U.S. archaeological groups and the Egyptian Government. See

This report confirms Egyptian antiquities minister Hawass' blog suggesting that the U.S. government had ceded agreement authority to a coalition of private archaeological groups.

According to the report, "Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said, 'The Coalition will be drafting a formal agreement between the US and Egyptian governments, and, as soon as it is signed, all of these important projects will be implemented.'"

I find this troubling. Coalition members certainly have a sincere interest in helping Egypt to preserve its cultural heritage, but they also have direct professional and financial interests with Egypt's corrupt cultural establishment, i.e., excavation permits, TV deals and the like. This thus raises conflict of interest concerns.

It should also be noted that the AIA press release does not repeat Hawass' statement that the negotiations included so-called emergency import restrictions on Egyptian cultural artifacts. One suspects that the omission is intentional. As stated previously, news that such restrictions are a "done deal" suggests that the State Department is simply ignoring the legal provisions of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

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