Minutes for the May 2014 Official Meeting
QUARTERLY MEETING ON “WARS, DISASTERS, AND CULTURAL HERITAGE PRESERVATION: THE ROLE OF ARTS AND CULTURE IN NATIONAL SECURITY.”
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
Mr. William J. Hybl, Chairman
Mr. Sim Farar, Vice Chairman
Ambassador Penne Korth Peacock
Ms. Anne Terman Wedner
Ms. Lezlee Westine
COMMISSION STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Ms. Michelle Bowen, Program Support Assistant
Dr. Katherine Brown, Executive Director
GUEST SPEAKERS PRESENT:
Ms. Molly Fannon, Director, Office of International Relations, Smithsonian Institution
Ms. Maria Kouroupas, Director, Cultural Heritage Center, U.S. Department of State
Mr. Rick Ruth, Senior Advisor, Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, U.S. Department of State
The presentations by Maria Kouroupas of the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center and Molly Fannon of the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of International Relations are available to supplement the transcript.
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy held a public meeting on May 8, 2014 from 10:00-11:30a.m. at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, DC. The Commission Members welcomed three guest speakers to brief them and the public on the role of arts and culture in national security, and the value of U.S. cultural heritage preservation work worldwide. The speakers were: Molly Fannon, Director of the Office of International Relations at the Smithsonian Institution; Maria Kouroupas, Director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the U.S. Department of State; and Rick Ruth, Senior Advisor to the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau at the U.S. Department of State. Several experts on the subject were also in the room, including: Robert Albro, a Professor at American University; Patty Gerstenblith, a Professor of Law at DePaul University and Chair of the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the U.S. Department of State; Lynn Nicholas, the author of the book The Rape of Europa; Thomas Staahl, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Richard Jackson, Member of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield.
The purpose of this meeting was to understand where arts and culture fits within the realm of U.S. national security. As a case study, the Commission opted to look at the whole-of-government approach to preserving arts and culture abroad, more than a decade since the experience of the looting of the Baghdad Museum during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since then, efforts to protect heritage sites have been an ongoing dimension to Defense Department, State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Smithsonian Institution foreign public engagement activities. This includes, but is not limited to, efforts to restore cultural heritage sites devastated by conflict -- as seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria – and by disasters – as seen in Haiti and the Philippines.
The first speaker, Mr. Rick Ruth, discussed how American popular culture is the best-known, most pervasive culture in the world. It is natural, he said, to leverage it in an “appropriate, sophisticated, informed way to help advance our national and foreign policy goals around the world.” Arts and culture is used as an entry point to access people, especially global youth, so the U.S. Government can then engage them on important messages regarding education, tolerance and conflict resolution. He said, “We use cultural diplomacy very deliberately, very closely tied to foreign policy… Cultural diplomacy can build a foundation of trust around the world that exists outside of governmental structures, that endures beyond headlines, that endures beyond government and regime changes.” Once that foundation of trust is established, he explained, policymakers can use it to “build specific agreements whether they are economic, military, or political.” National leaders are more likely to work with the U.S. if their populations feel as if they share a sufficient number of values with Americans, Mr. Ruth emphasized. In countries where there is deep suspicion of the U.S., especially since 9/11, the U.S. Department of State has worked to gather populations on a neutral platform with a positive agenda focused on sports, English language instruction, entrepreneurship skills, and other dimensions of the U.S. deemed to be attractive. “The quickest, easiest, most direct way to reach young people around the world – is through arts and culture and sports,” he stated. The U.S.-funded programs also help to counter extremists’ narratives and instead promote the “multiethnic, multi-confessional, tolerant histories” that exist in many of the world’s societies.
The second speaker, Ms. Maria Kouroupas, Director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the U.S. Department of State, explained the role of the Center and its work to protect heritage sites and antiquities around the globe. The Center administers the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which implements U.S. treaty responsibilities such as those prohibiting the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership and cultural property. It also manages the Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation, established by Congress, which offers U.S. ambassadors the chance to support cultural heritage preservation projects inside their assigned countries and advance diplomatic objectives through showing “a different American face to other countries, one that is not commercial, non-political and non-military.” She also explained the work that the Cultural and Antiquities Task Force, which trains and works with the international law enforcement community to identify stolen heritage. This work, she explained, is “a public diplomacy tool unlike any other in that in enables enduring bilateral relationships directed solely to safeguarding the world’s heritage against pillage and preserving ancient historic sites and objects for future generations.” She offered examples of such work in Afghanistan, Iraq and Thailand. Ms. Kouroupas also showed slides on the looting of cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Syria. Syria, she said, is “home to some of the richest treasures of the ancient world from the Bronze and Iron Age all the way through the Islamic period.” However, 93 percent of cultural heritage sites in Syria are in conflict zones; so far, 550 acres of heritage has been destroyed. Her office has developed a diplomatic strategy to address these issues. Her presentation can be accessed here.
The final speaker was Ms. Molly Fannon, the Director of the Office of International Relations at the Smithsonian Institution. She explained the reach of the Smithsonian Institution has as the “world’s largest museum and research complex with 19 museums, nine global research centers, 20 libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.” Having the world’s largest collection of 137 million objects has given them a well of scientific expertise to draw from and support other artists, curators, preservationists and scientists in 130 countries. In discussing the looting of cultural sites in Egypt, Haiti, Mali and Syria, Ms. Fannon said, “it is not just [their] cultural heritage that is being destroyed, it is our cultural heritage that is being destroyed because it is the world’s cultural heritage that is being destroyed. When you destroy heritage you destroy the identity and memory of an entire people.” In addition to preserving collections and training conservators, the Smithsonian has also worked to save the world’s languages, as every 14 days, she explained, “a language disappears around the world.” The Smithsonian Institution works actively with the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency of International Development, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense in supporting their work in the field. She closed with saying the Smithsonian will continue “to play a more active role in crisis prevention and cultural recovery and … greatly increase our heritage work internationally because of the importance we see for diplomacy, development, and national security.” Her presentation can be accessed here.
The Commission Members, experts in attendance, and the audience posed questions about the support these efforts receive on Capitol Hill, the convoluted international legal system that hampers retribution of looted antiquities, and how arts and culture can become a more pervasive part of U.S. diplomacy, development, and defense strategies. The specific answers to the questions can be found below in the transcript. The Commission will continue to learn about cultural heritage preservation work and raise concerns with the State Department and Congress.
The meeting closed by briefly discussing the Commission’s mandate and plan for the remainder of the year. The Commission will meet publicly again on September 16, 2014 to discuss how to measure the impact of U.S. public diplomacy programs worldwide.
Katherine Brown: Thank you very much for coming to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy’s spring meeting on War, Disasters, and Cultural Heritage Preservation: The Role of Arts and Culture in National Security. I’m Katherine Brown, Executive Director of the Commission and I would like to welcome Chairman Bill Hybl to the podium to further welcome everybody and introduce our speakers. Thank you.
Chairman Bill Hybl: Thank you, Katherine. Let me say on behalf of the Commission we want to thank all of you for being here. This is really an interesting time to discuss this particular topic of Wars, Disasters, and Cultural Heritage Preservation. Many of you may have seen the film, Monuments Men, which deals with this issue, and we continue to grapple with what happened with the looting of the Baghdad, and this continues to be important in Afghanistan and Syria. In short, the destruction of civilizations means we all lose. The U.S. is playing a role in preserving foreign cultures, but maybe a larger role should be played in making sure that around the world that we do our best to help other countries maintain their own civilizations.
This is the Commission’s third public hearing since our reinstatement last summer. And I want to say something about Katherine and her staff. She has taken and really moved the Commission’s agenda in terms of the essence of what we do: Building awareness for the necessity of public diplomacy for national security, which involves, but is not limited to, promoting American culture and American enterprise, and allowing us to learn from others as well. I think Katherine has set a new standard for this organization at an essential time. We really want to thank you for what you do, for being here and being interested in U.S. public diplomacy efforts around the world.
We have with us today a number of our Commission members; five of the six. Sim Farar our Vice Chairman from Los Angeles; Anne Terman Wedner from Chicago; Ambassador Penne Peacock from Austin, Texas; and Lezlee Westine from Washington, DC. I am from Colorado Springs so you can tell we are broadly representative of the country as a whole. Ambassador Lyndon Olson from Waco, Texas could not be with us. For those of you who have an interest in us, our biographies are on the side of the room.
We would like to thank the Elliott School of International Affairs for hosting us today. This is a great spot, where we can get everyone a little closer. Thank you to Professor Sean Aday for his assistance and really making this possible. Now I would like to turn to our Vice Chair, Sim Farar, to introduce the speakers.
Sim Farar: Is this live, Katherine?
Katherine Brown: It is.
Sim Farar: Good. We are honored here today to have three featured speakers and a host of experts to discuss the role of arts and cultural in national security, and the whole government approach to cultural heritage preservation in and out of times of crisis. Our first featured speaker is Rick Ruth. Rick is a Senior Advisor in the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau at the U.S. Department of State. He was previously the Director of the Office of Policy and Evaluation for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, where he was responsible for ensuring that educational and cultural programs are consistent with United States foreign policy and for the evaluation of programs implemented under the Fulbright Hays Act. There he established the department’s first Office of Alumni Affairs. Rick is a former Foreign Service officer and a career member of the Senior Executive Service. He joined the United States Information Agency in the mid-1970s as a Russian-speaking staff member giving him nearly 40 years of experience in this field. Thank you, Rick, for being here.
Rick Ruth: Thank you for mentioning that. [Laughter].
Sim Farar: We will have you do your speech in Russian, if that is okay. Also from the State Department, we have Maria Kouroupas. Am I pronouncing it right, Maria?
Maria Kouroupas: Kouroupas.
Sim Farar: Kouroupas. Excuse me, I am so sorry. She is the Director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the State Department. She brings with her three decades of experience with this work in government. In 1984, she began at the United States Information Agency, where she became Deputy Director of the Cultural Preservation Advisory Committee. In 1993, she was named its Director. Maria also served as Executive Director of the Committee before coming to the Cultural Heritage Center in the same capacity.
Last, from the Smithsonian Institute, we have Molly Fannon. Molly is the Director of the Office of International Relations at the Smithsonian Institution and the Institution’s Representative of International Programs. She previously served the Smithsonian as a consultant for the International Museum Professional Education Program in Abu Dhabi, Oman and Singapore. Prior to her work with the Smithsonian, she worked for Booz, Allen, Hamilton in their international development and diplomacy division. She also worked Chemonics, an international consulting firm that promotes social and economic change around the world. There are more detailed biographies that are available at the back of the room if you would like to look at them.
I would also like to welcome the many experts we have in the room who have taken the time to join us today and contribute to the discussion. Robert Albro, a professor from American University. Are you here, Robert? Robert. Barry Bergery, did I pronounce it right Barry? Is Barry here?
Katherine Brown: He is not here.
Sim Farar: If I did not pronounce it right, sorry Barry. Patty Gerstenblith. Patty is up here at the front, a Professor of Law at DePaul University and Chair of the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee at the State Department. Lynn Nicholas, are you here. There is Lynn. Lynn Nicholas is the author of the book The Rape of Europa. Kurt Muller, who is not here today. Ok, he is a professor at the National Defense University. Thomas Staahl, who is the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Katherine Schweitzer and Laura Tedesco, who have worked on these issues in the Middle East and Afghanistan, respectively for the State Department. I apologize if I have left anyone out here, I will feel really bad if I have. But you will have time during our question and answer period to ask questions and find out more of what is going on. I will now turn it over to Rick Ruth, followed by Maria and Molly Fannon. The Commission Members will then ask some initial questions before turning it over to our extended question and answer session. You will be allowed to ask questions if you like, and it will be moderated by Katherine, our Executive Director. Thank you very much.
Rick Ruth: Good morning, I am delighted to be here. I have only 10 minutes, and I will be on time. I promised Katherine I would stay within the time, but I would be remiss if I did not take a few seconds to express my gratitude and give an individual round of applause to the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. I express my gratitude to them. I have worked off and on with the Advisory Commission as a group, and with some individual members, over the years and applaud their contributions to Public Diplomacy and their expertise. Just to mention as well, the excellent choice of this particular topic, which I think, is one that is under praised, if you will, and underutilized and has a great deal of potential which we will talk about today.
I am going to talk about arts and culture broadly in national security and foreign policy. My colleague, Maria Kouroupas, will talk specifically about cultural heritage and preservation. I am going to move quickly so I am going to make a lot of assertions; I am not going to give you the explanations, I will just tell you what I think. We will have the question and answer discussion period later where you can challenge those things and add perspective and content. For everyone who labors in the vineyards of “cultural diplomacy,” I am going to borrow that term as the umbrella term here -- I have heard disputes about those things as well, but I am just going to use that. Everyone who labors in the vineyards of cultural diplomacy knows that at regular intervals--if not every single day--somebody asks you why is this important to the national security? How can it be used in any useful way at all? Or why do we even spend a nickel of taxpayer dollars on these kinds of things – performers, dancers, singers, athletes and so forth and so on. I am going to go ahead and get practical right away. I am going to take it as an article of faith that the role of cultural diplomacy is an important one in national security and foreign policy and, again, we can discuss that later.
First of all, I believe that the United States has a number of competitive advantages, if you will, or natural assets that we can use in the conduct of public diplomacy around the world. They are, without too much elaboration, our civil society, our vigorous strong civil society and the values that drive it; the American system of higher education; our popular culture--the one I am going to talk about; what I call our youth inclusive culture; and the language, which I am speaking right now, the English language, which at the moment is the language that drives world commerce and drives a lot of ambition around the world. It might not always be the case, but it is for the moment.
Now our popular culture – you can love, you can hate it, you can revile it, you can praise it – but the fact remains it is the most prevalent, the best known, the most literally attractive popular culture in the world. Given that the stakes are so high for American leadership and given the challenges that face us around the world, why would we not use everything that is at our disposal. Why would we not leverage American popular culture in an appropriate, sophisticated, informed way to help advance our national and foreign policy goals around the world? I think it would be foolish to squander that opportunity.
The second thing is that we do not exercise our interest in the arts or sports or culture for their own sake. We are not MGM; our motto is not “Art for Art’s Sake.” We use arts, culture, and sports as an entry point to reach critical audiences with important messages. We did not send Kareem Abdul-Jabbar down to Brazil to help young Brazilians improve their free throws. But that is the hook--the skyhook in this case--but that is the hook. Because if you want to get young, particularly underserved, audiences, particularly young men to be quite honest-in this particular case. We also send members of the American Women’s Olympic Soccer Team to engage young women around the world. But if you want to get those young men and you want to get those young women from the poorer neighborhoods, from the favellas. If you want them to come to some location where they will listen to what we think is an important message about education, about tolerance, and about conflict resolution in a peaceful manner, then you have to gather that audience. And you are not going to gather that audience – I trust everyone here knows if you offer up a lecture in an embassy conference room on constitutional law, or if you offer something on intellectual property rights – they are not going to come to that. You have to go where they are, you have to go to where your audience lives. You have to offer them something they care about so that you can then talk to them about the importance of education or the importance of individual dignity or tolerance or respect for others. We use cultural diplomacy very deliberately, very closely tied to foreign policy, working closely with our regional bureau colleagues and embassies to identify the audiences and identify the messages. Then we use cultural diplomacy as the means, as the entry point, to reach that audience with that message.
Cultural diplomacy can build a foundation of trust around the world that exists outside of governmental structures, that endures beyond headlines, that endures beyond government and regime changes. This is something that policymakers and national leaders can then use to build specific agreements whether they are economic, military or political. If there is a sense in the population that there are sufficient shared interests or a sufficient number of common values between the United States and the American people and the people of that society then that gives their leadership the latitude to go forward with agreements with the United States. Cultural diplomacy helps us reach non-traditional audiences. This has been particularly important since 9/11 when we had, perhaps on an official basis, come rather late to recognize its tremendous influential importance, which everyone here who deals in cultural diplomacy and in the arts and so forth has always known. But it has come late perhaps on an official basis, that it is not enough to talk to the minister of this and that, or to the editor of this, or to the professor of that. We need to reach cultural figures, religious figures, tribal figures – individuals of tremendous cultural influence. Again, how do you reach them best, particularly if you are in a country where those are exactly the individuals who are suspicious of the United States; who are skeptical of all of our motives?
One way to do it, one way that has proven to be very successful – and I see some practitioners of it in the audience here, which pleases me – is you bring them together on a neutral platform with a positive agenda. People who will not talk to each other ordinarily or will not talk to us ordinarily will come together for youth, sports, English language instruction, the arts, or for some venue in which all parties can express support. Then our diplomats and others can use that opportunity, can use that gathering to take the conversation other places. But first, you have you to get them there, and cultural diplomacy provides that.
Perhaps the most amorphous, largest, and intriguing of all non-traditional audiences, of course, is what we call youth. You hear people talking about the youth demographic, the youth audience. How do we reach youth? The quickest, easiest, most direct way to reach young people around the world is through arts and culture and sports. As I said, we use that opportunity to talk about other messages. In particular, because these are precisely the kinds of programs that can largely be conducted and have significant impact without the language barrier. That is a tremendously important issue for our staff at our embassies around the world and for us as we try to reach young people whose levels of English language are likely to be low or nonexistent and we do not want to limit ourselves or limit our embassies’ reach only to those individuals who happen to speak English. We want to have our embassies identify the proper people, the young people that they want to reach and we will be able to provide a program that allows them to engage those young people.
On a larger scale, cultural diplomacy programs allow rapprochement without concession. This goes back to what most people know as “ping-pong diplomacy.” But we do it now on a much broader, much more sophisticated scale. Bu essentially, if you can have representatives of the United States and another country with whom relations have been strained, or difficult or non-existent, and you need a venue to come together and a reason to come together, that does not seem like either side is conceding anything politically to the other, you can do that through cultural diplomacy. I do not know when the day will come or how it will come when we will have something approaching normal relationships with Cuba or North Korea or Iran. But I can tell you -- and you can take my marker home with you today -- that one of the very first events that will happen when that day comes will be a bilateral cultural diplomacy event. It will be sports, it will be youth, it will be film, it will be music, and it will be in one those categories. That is no small thing. It is not because those cultural diplomacy activities are meaningless, it is because they are so meaningful that they will lead to broader more fruitful political discussions.
One last thing, and that is countering violent extremism. It is very much to the benefit of extremists to try and have a scorched earth cultural policy to try and create a fake structure or fake cultural history and deny the fact that many societies around the world have broader, multiethnic, multi-confessional, tolerant histories. They would like to destroy the cultural memories of many of these things and put forth the idea that there is only one possible correct interpretation of how to see the world. The fact that Maria’s office helps preserve Buddhist sites in northern Pakistan sends a powerful message in a lot of different ways. In the end, cultural diplomacy is all about the fact of individual dignity, individual worth, the fact that freedom of expression and freedom of thought and creativity lie at the heart of human rights. Thank you. [Applause].
Maria Kouroupas: Thank you very much for inviting the Cultural Heritage Center to be represented here for the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. It is a pleasure to be here, we are grateful to have a chance to share a little bit about our work with you. I grew up in the south and I am not accustomed to speaking fast so I will do my best with my 10-minute allotment. But I did get an extra few minutes because I twisted someone’s arm.
The Cultural Heritage Center supports the foreign affairs functions of the U.S. Department of State related to the protection and preservation of cultural heritage. It administers the Cultural Property Advisory Committee under a program called the Cultural Property Protection Program. It administers the cultural antiquity task force, the Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation, and a number of special program initiatives. The Center is a public diplomacy tool unlike any other in that it enables enduring bilateral relationships directed solely to safeguarding the world’s heritage against pillage and preserving ancient historic sites and objects for future generations. These manifestations of past cultures represent a tangible link between present and past. Once evidence of our past is destroyed the link is forever lost.
The Cultural Property Protection Program involves implementing U.S. treaty responsibilities relating to the convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership and cultural property. Within this framework, the United States may enter into agreements with other countries to impose import restrictions on archaeological or ethnological material the pillage of which places that country’s cultural heritage in jeopardy. Before deciding to enter into such agreements, the Department must refer foreign government requests to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee for its review and recommendations. And as you heard earlier Patty Gerstenblith, an eminent scholar and cultural property law professor at DePaul University, is currently our Chair.
Beyond import restrictions, agreements establish long-term benchmarks for protecting cultural heritage and promote international access to cultural property for educational scientific and cultural purposes. The U.S. has entered into a number of bilateral agreements with countries such as China, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and, most recently, Bulgaria. A number of countries in the Western Hemisphere including Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Columbia and Bolivia. We just received a request from Egypt, perhaps you have learned about that, and the committee will be deliberating that request in June.
Why is pillage a concern? Pillage of archaeological and ethnological materials deprives a nation of its cultural heritage. Here is, by the way, I am behind in my visuals here, the agreement with Greece signed by then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, co-signing with her was the Foreign Minister of Greece at the time and it was signed in Athens in the new Acropolis Museum. Pillage of archaeological sites involves unscientific digging to retrieve those items that are valuable to the art market. Consequently, pillagers destroy context. When archaeological materials are found without proper scientific recording of contents and materials from a site, it is impossible to reconstruct or understand the culture that produced it.
Congress, when it passed legislation to implement the aforementioned UNESCO treaty, expressed its justification for doing so. In their Senate report, they noted that it is important to our foreign relations, including our international cultural relations. The expanded worldwide trade and objects of archaeological interest has led to wholesale depredations in some countries resulting in the mutilation of centers of archaeological complexes and ancient civilizations, something you are hearing about even today. The United States, said the Senate, considers that on grounds of principle, good foreign relations and concern or the preservation of cultural heritage of mankind it should render assistance.
This is a looted site, these are looters holes. If you put a looter in one of those holes, the hole would consume that looter – they are that large. This is a site in Iraq that was looted.
I will go on to Cultural and Antiquities Task Force just briefly, one of the areas of responsibility we have. The task force is made up of the executive branch of law enforcement entities. Congress directed the Department to train our customs officials on cultural property trafficking issues. This activity is carried out in an MOU with the Smithsonian. We also develop site security workshops abroad. For example, shortly after the revolution, we were able to respond rather quickly to Egypt support for security training by the Department of Homeland Security and we supported, in collaboration with the International Council of Museums, the development of a Red List of Egyptian Cultural Objects at Risk.
The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation is a prominent activity of the Cultural Heritage Center. This map shows you the breadth of the work that we have done around the world. Our focus is on less developed countries. Here also it is interesting to note the importance to public diplomacy that Congress gave this new activity. It said in creating the Ambassadors Fund that, “too often U.S. assistance to less developed nations is either invisible, but to all the handful of bureaucrats or appears to benefit us at the expense of the recipient country. Cultural preservation offers an opportunity to show a different American face to other countries, one that is not commercial, non-political and non-military.” This program offers U.S. ambassadors an opportunity to support cultural heritage preservation projects that achieve what Congress intended of the program, while at the same time, reinforcing the advancement of diplomatic objectives and foreign policy goals in countries in both non-disaster and disaster situations.
Here is the Ayutthaya site, a world heritage site in Thailand that was impacted by the monsoon a few years ago. We were able to get in there and work with an NGO to start the task of recovery for the site. These are before and after pictures. We have been quite active in Afghanistan where the embassy has chosen to support a number of projects, and hopefully we will hear more from Laura Tedesco about those. One project that we have been involved in is Herat. Herat is a 15th century citadel, the oldest and one of the largest in Central Asia. The project benefited economic development along with the restoration of the citadel. It employed a number of Afghans for the three years the project was in process. Into Iraq, we have dedicated a considerable amount of time and funds to help that country restore its cultural patrimony. Here is a restored Islamic hall at the National Museum. Here is our work at Babylon, where we are engaged with the World Monuments Fund in a long-term effort to develop management planning, preservation, and educational development. Also, one of the most remarkable things that we have been able to do is to set up a conservation training institute in Erbil. It is the only one in Iraq and the only one in the region and we are very happy that we have been able to be engaged in such positive endeavor with our private sector colleagues.
Before closing, I want to get very quickly to Syria and I hope I have extra minute or two to finish up with Syria. As you know, most of you are aware that Syria is home to some of the richest treasures of the ancient world from the Bronze and Iron Age all the way through the Islamic period. For over a year now, the ECA (Educational and Cultural Affairs) and NEA (Near East Asia) bureaus – and thanks to our colleague from NEA, Katherine Schweitzer is here – we have been able to develop a diplomatic strategy for cultural heritage. Our colleague Andy Cohen from the Cultural Heritage Center has been very engaged in this as well. The purpose is to undertake a number of diplomatic initiatives addressing cultural heritage, one which is the production of the Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at risk. There are some of these on the table at the back of the room. And we compiled this map showing cultural heritage sites at risk which shows that 93 percent of the cultural heritage sites are in conflict zones in Syria. We compiled our reference list of cultural heritage sites, some of which you see here, and we have also have identified more than a thousand cultural heritage sites at potential risk.
The alarming information that we get from these geospatial images is before and after. This is the Roman site of Apamea in July 2011, and this is Apamea less than a year later. These are looters’ pits, the same kind of pits that you saw in the image from Iraq. These are not tiny holes, they are huge. This area is equivalent to 220 football fields. This is another before and after of Apamea. Just recently, one of our colleagues pulled up this imagery showing Dura-Europos built by Marcus Aurelius. This image was a few years ago; this is an aerial view of the site today. It represents 550 acres of destroyed heritage.
I will close there and look forward to further discussion later on. I would like to welcome members of our Cultural Heritage Center staff that are sitting back there and they will also be able to help answer any questions you may have. Thank you very much. [Applause].
Molly Fannon: Hello everyone, I am Molly Fannon; I am the relatively new Director of International Relations at the Smithsonian. I have been officially in this position for about a year. As someone whose background is in international development, principally with USAID and Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, and whose academic background is on the role of the cultural sector can play for economic development, it has been a real privilege for me to work now at the Smithsonian. The goal of the Office of International Relations is to leverage the creativity, the expertise and the assets of the entire Smithsonian in order to promote meaningful change in the world. Today I am going to focus principally on our work in the cultural sector for that.
I am going to begin by talking about Haiti, because I think it is indicative of the ethos with which we have approached this work and also the urgency of the work itself. You see the quote up on the powerpoint, which is quite powerful. When the earthquake happened in Haiti our Undersecretary for Art, History and Culture Richard Kurin, who I am sure many of you know, felt a personal responsibility to respond because the Smithsonian had long-standing relationships with the Haitian government through our work with them with the Folk Life Festival. He worked quickly with the support of Rick and Maria and others at State Department, with the support of USAID, with the support of other groups to respond to the earthquake in Haiti. I, as someone whose background is in economic development in the international development world, understand the question completely of why should we spend money or time investing in the cultural sector? Why does it matter? I thought rather than me explain why it matters, I was going to let someone else explain.
This is USAID’s administrator, Rajiv Shah. The Smithsonian signed an MOU with USAID, we also have one with the State Department since last year, to really increase collaborations and leverage each other’s work. This is Raj at the end of the ceremony with some off-the-cuff remarks.
[Video] Rajiv Shah: The post-earthquake environment is of course devastating with more than 260,000 people perishing and many, many more losing family members or limbs or being in a real state of shock and depression. For all the things we have done – we have mounted the largest humanitarian rescue effort in the world, the most successful actually, if you look statistically, was lowering the diarrheal disease at Port-A-Prince, which was lower six months after the earthquake than it was the day before the earthquake. I can rattle through a whole host of statistics: we have helped to reconstruct 400,000 homes, 1.7 million people have moved back into them, and agriculture is thriving because of some of the things we have done. There are also 40,000 new jobs and a lot of new private investment. The one thing – every time I go [to Haiti] – that I believe our Haitian colleagues are most proud of is this effort [toward cultural preservation]. Because after the earthquake a lot of people around the world saw Haiti as a place where it was just poverty and suffering and tragedy. This project done by the Smithsonian sort of told a counter-narrative of history and culture and richness that people were just so proud of. I hope we can do more of these all around the world and I just thank everyone involved in this effort from the bottom of my heart for such an important effort, such an important project. Thank you.
Molly Fannon: Okay. Someone who maybe approached the project with a bit of skepticism coming around to it. First, we are all very familiar with the State Department; certainly, the Commission on Public Diplomacy is quite familiar, but I thought I might spend a minute just explaining who the Smithsonian is, who we are because we are a bit of a unique organization. We are the world’s largest museum and research complex with 19 museums, nine global research centers, 20 libraries, archives, and the National Zoo. On our Board of Regents sits the Vice President of the United States, as well as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Members of Congress and prominent U.S. citizens. We are a trust instrumentality at the U.S. Government. What that essentially means is that we receive approximately 60 percent of our funding from the U.S. Government. The other 40 percent we raise privately so it enables us – we are not a federal agency, we are a 501(c)(3) organization with federal support, which gives us a little bit of flexibility and at times has really benefited the U.S. Government and our partners.
We have the world’s largest collection; 137 million objects sit in the Smithsonian’s collection. A lot of people who are outside of the museum sector, frankly think, “Well, why does that matter? A whole bunch of stuff.” Collections give us the expertise, and the scientists who work with those collections have the expertise, so that when a disaster happens, when the oil spill happened in the Gulf, we received the call to say “What is the marine biodiversity in the Gulf and how can we then monitor the impact of the oil spill in the Gulf based on the collections at the Smithsonian Institution?” It is our specialists who are scientists, who work with these collections. Scientists who are conservators all the way to etymologists who offer the expertise to go into countries when there are critical problems and help salvage antiquities that are at risk. Collections are also really important, you will hear stories a little bit later, in helping countries re-encounter their culture when it has been taken away from them. They are also critical for cultural tourism, so a lot of the work that we are doing now internationally – and I am happy to speak more about it when we have more time – is helping other countries, principally in the developing world, understand how collections can matter for their own biodiversity conservation efforts, for their own cultural conservation efforts, and giving them the support and assistance to make that happen.
We work in 130 countries around the world, so we have been an international organization since our founding in the 1860s and we are still an international organization. We have 6,000 employees that includes more than 500 Ph.D. scientists, another 500 fellows. We have 6,500 volunteers who breathe life into us, and the world’s largest visitor-ship of any cultural complex with 30 million people walking through our doors every year and almost 200 million online.
I am not going to dwell on this, we heard very well about this from Rick, and certainly from Maria. We all see this in the newspaper, what are the crises that we see every day in the headlines? Egypt, looters shattering the museums. The Malawi Museum recently burning objects that were too heavy to carry away or breaking them. Syria, certainly. Mali, where not only our manuscripts are being burned but mausoleums are being crumbled to the ground. Actually, I want to read a quote about Mali from Marina Bokova of UNESCO. She said, “We must realize what is really going on here in Mali. There is much more at stake than a handful of structures made of mud and wood,” in this case she is speaking of mausoleums in Timbuktu. “Timbuktu is no ordinary town. The fabled city of 333 saints is an ancient desert crossroads and a historic seat of Islamic learning and faith. The attack on Timbuktu’s cultural heritage” -- this is important -- “is an attack against the history and the values it carries. Values of tolerance, exchange and living together, which lie at the heart of Islam. It is an attack against the physical evidence that peace and dialogue is possible and this is condemned uniformly by religious leaders across the world.”
I think importantly – and Maria was showing the before and after pictures of Syria – it is not just Syria’s cultural heritage that is being destroyed, it is our cultural heritage that is being destroyed because it is the world’s cultural heritage that is being destroyed. When you destroy heritage you destroy the identity and memory of an entire people.
So how is the Smithsonian responding? We are responding in partnership with the State Department and with USAID in some cases and are very grateful for those collaborations. In Haiti, immediately after the earthquake with the support of (NEA) National Endowment for the Arts, with the support of the State Department, with the support of USAID, we sent a team of Smithsonian colleagues who did not conserve the work themselves, but trained Haitians to do that work. We rescued 30,000 pieces of cultural heritage, we trained more than 150 conservators who now reside in Haiti and have economic employment, we have developed a long-term training institution in Haiti.
In Mali, the picture that you see on this slide are museum directors across West Africa comparing stories of how they themselves are dealing the jihadists who are trying to destroy their collections. So in Mali, with the support of IComm and UNESCO, Corie Wegner our Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer at the Smithsonian, who can speak more about this, led training on how to preserve and protect cultural heritage at risk. We work, as Maria was saying, with the State Department and with the Department of Homeland Security to bring customs enforcement and legal specialists into our collection so they can learn the specifics of how to recognize trafficking in illicit cultural heritage, which is a $1 billion a year estimated industry. And it is related to trafficking, in people, trafficking in wild life, and it is funding terrorism. We are also training members of the Department of Defense; we have trained more than 500 people from the Army and Marine Corps Civil Affairs Unit and that enables them to implement their responsibilities in the 1954 Hague Convention.
Importantly, what crises are not making the headlines? I think this is something that is really important. There are disappearing ways of life all over the world. There are lost traditions and there are endangered languages. How is the Smithsonian responding? Our response, which is really a new response, is something that we are beginning to undertake by linking ourselves up with best practices and economic development. One example is in sustainable handicrafts. After agriculture in the developing world, handicrafts are the single most effective employer of people. But they have not been dealt with in a way that really leverages the best practice of market demand and businesses. So we are working now with reinvigorating the Folk Life Festival with my colleague Halle Butvin has been doing. She helps to implement best practices and economic development, which helps artisans around the world make a living by keeping heritage alive in their communities. Also importantly, it helps us keep our work going at the Smithsonian Institution.
In the Middle East – and I heard, Rick, you talk about the fact that we need to think about how we can stop terrorism in its tracks, and what the role of the cultural sector is – we are very active in the Middle East. Frankly, we are very active in this sector around the world. In the Middle East an advisor to one of the Crown Princes once took me aside and explained that the reason they were investing so heavily in the cultural sector was not for cultural tourism, despite all the articles that you read about in the New York Times, etc. It was so that the children of that country would have the opportunity to go to museums, to hear theater, to hear concerts, to go and see theater and gain an appreciation for other people. For people principally of the West in this country, so that those children who have access to a lot of funding would not someday use that funding to destroy other cultures and other people. That is a really powerful statement. So the Smithsonian Institutions’ cultural sectors around the world in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and now, principally with USAID in Europe, work to support the cultural sector not only as an avenue for understanding of people, but for economic development opportunities, workforce development, social cohesion, and peace and conflict resolution.
We are saving in the world’s languages, or working to do that – and we are one organization of many. Every 14 days a language disappears around the world. By the end of this century 90 percent of the spoken languages that exist in this world will no longer be spoken. The Smithsonian is working to – I cannot be so bold as to say stop that pattern in its tracks, but to really address the issue through a program called Recovering Voices, where we are working strongly to revitalize languages in high-risk communicates. It is not just the language that is important, but we have to think about the knowledge contained within the language, especially when you think about biodiversity, medicinal elements of plants that are unique to certain areas. This is really critical information that once it is lost, it is lost.
Where were we 10 years ago? I am traveling later today with Suzanne Murray the head veterinarian of our National Zoo. When Operation Iraqi Freedom happened, she got a call from the Defense Department late at night and said, “The Zoo has been bombed, and we do not know what to do.” So we also manage a living collection at the Smithsonian. She was able to give some off-the-cuff suggestions about the types of enclosures that needed to happen, how the looted medicine may be replaced from medicine that was available that the Army had access to. But we were not prepared at the Smithsonian to be an active participant and really respond to this sort of crisis.
Where are we headed? We are working in concert with our colleagues at the State Department and other partners to think strategically about how the Smithsonian can play a more active role in crisis prevention and cultural recovery and also greatly increase our heritage work internationally because of the importance we see that this plays for diplomacy, development and national security. Thank you. [Applause].
Katherine Brown: Thank you so much Molly, and also Rick and Maria. We are going to turn it over to the Commission Members to ask some initial questions before opening it up to all of you.
Sim Farar: My name is Sim Farar, before I ask my question. By the way, that was incredible. Thank you very much. I want to acknowledge a young woman in our audience today: Aviva Rosenthal. Aviva, stand up and say hello. She is formerly from the Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy’s office at the State Department. She was very, very involved in re-establishing our Commission. I really want to thank you very, very much. But I must say I am still upset with Molly for stealing her away from us, okay.
Molly Fannon: I know a good thing when I see it. [Laughter.]
Sim Farar: Thanks a lot. Now my question is to Rick, when speaking to other countries, how do we know that these other countries want our support or this support?
Rick Ruth: That is a good question. One of the things I did not get to in my 10 minutes is that what cultural programs do and very notably --
Bill Hybl: Go to the mike, would you?
Sim Farar: You need to get closer.
Rick Ruth: One of the things that I would’ve said if I had 11 minutes, is that cultural diplomacy programs and cultural heritage programs, the Smithsonian programs, are extremely responsive to the requests and needs of other cultures and societies. They tell us very plainly what they want. This is a way that of showing that we support them in some other way than as pawns in a geostrategic game, that we care about their values, their history, their culture over time for its own sake, and as part of a world heritage and our heritage. It also allows our diplomats and our professionals to come back and make our foreign policy more informed, more nuanced, more humane because we understand that other perspective.
A few years ago, I was in Lahore visiting a site that Maria’s office was working on, a mosque. I arrived with a few people from the embassy and met the Director of Archeology and Antiquities, from the Ministry. Before we began looking at the mosque and the restoration project he said, just step over here for a second, there is one thing I want to say to you. He said to me, “I want to thank you for recognizing the need. I want to thank you for knowing we do not have the expertise and the resources to do it ourselves as much as it matters to us. I want to thank you for finding a way to do it that does not shame us for our lack.” So, it resonates greatly.
Sim Farar: Thank you very much.
Molly Fannon: I would like to add. We work hand-in-hand and sometimes we provide for lack of a better term advisory services or even consulting services to cultural sectors around the world. But we do not do it in a way that the U.S. is parachuting in to show the Smithsonian way of doing things because a) it does not work, and b) it is arrogant. Really, the way that we found really works well is to be active listeners and to really learn, to legitimately learn as much as we share and teach. That really has created relationships around the world that continue years and years beyond an initial request for assistance.
Penne Peacock: I would like to give a shout out to the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau. Having been at post right after the Kuwait War, I was informed that the State Department, [USIA at the time] was going to send out a country in Western band. Well that is just fine but I was in Mauritius. And 89 percent of the population in Mauritius is either Hindu or Muslim with the rest being Anglo-Franco. I thought, “Did they do this to me because I am from Texas, are they sending us to a country western band to the middle of the Indian Ocean?” I thought, “How could we get through this?” What we did was we ordered a couple of hundred red bandanas. As each one came in, not looking so happy with America, we handed every guest a red bandana – including the Prime Minister’s wife who brought along her grandson. Every one sat down very quietly – we did it in the garden and there was not much talk, just “Hello. How are you?” The music began and 15 minutes later no one was in their chair, they were dancing in the grass. They were thanking America for bringing such interesting music and they never heard of a country western band in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I would just like to say it works, it really works. Everyone at this table and in this audience knows it does, but I got to see it because the Prime Minister’s wife was up on the wall. Everyone loved it. Thank you again, USIA and all the cultural departments involved with helping, restoring, and being a teaching moment for our country.
Rick Ruth: Thank you. If I could just add quickly to that, this is what I would have said in my twelfth minute. One is that, when it comes to culture and heritage there are no super powers and no small states, no third world, no first world. We meet on equal footing. That is one of the powerful aspects of it. When an American mandolin player meets a North African or Indian Ocean musician, the power differential evaporates. It is all on an equal footing and equal amount of respect because every cultural heritage is equally valuable. The other point is that we reach people that the commercial world will not. We often hear “Look, if American culture is so pervasive around the world why don’t we just let Hollywood and Madison Avenue, and the entertainment industry take care of it? The reason is, of course, as I think everybody here knows, that we need to reach audiences with certain messages that fall well outside any interest of private commercial activities – including country western bands in Mauritius. And that is a powerful message also.
Lezlee Westine: This is fantastic, amazing work that you have been doing. Can you look in your crystal ball and just look out to the future? Is there as much enthusiasm for your work going forward as you found here in these discussions? Is there a threat to some of the terrific work that you are doing?
Rick Ruth: I would say that cultural diplomacy and cultural heritage are perpetually at risk. We could be up there on the list of at-risk cultural institutions around the world, because there is often a great deal of education and information that needs to be conveyed to people about what the real foreign policy benefit to the United States is in these kinds of programs. If every Member of Congress could have the kind of experience that Ambassador Peacock had, then that would be ideal, but many of them do not have that experience. That is a job for us all – and this is one reasons why I said this at the outset that I applaud the Commission for selecting this topic. It is a very important topic and it is a topic where funding is at risk day in and day out because of other important priorities. I do not say the other priorities are not significant, but it is an issue.
Anne Terman Wedner: Just one thought, which maybe I should not ask -- but what about dealing with our own collections and repatriation to other countries? And what is the signal that we are sending by not repatriating?
Molly Fannon: Maria, do you want to take it first and then I will give the Smithsonian perspective on it?
Maria Kouroupas: This is quite a touchy subject. There are circumstances under which many repatriations occur. Some of them, the best ones, are those that are voluntary. I recall that when the National Museum of the American Indian was being formed that there was a proactive effort on the part of the staff then to identify portions of the collection, the high collection I believe it was, that should possibly be repatriated to countries in the Western Hemisphere, the source countries. There was an active, very proactive program to do the research and repatriate. Now there are also the repatriations that are subject to court cases or public denunciations of museums that have these collections. Sometimes museums are shamed into repatriating. It is a very, very complicated issue. I would hope that there would be more voluntary repatriations over time within the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. There are often discussions about working to get foreign governments to loan objects to American museums for longer periods of time as a way of reducing the desire to collect, because collecting may be a little bit dicey because of provenance issues and looting issues as we have seen. But, you will see today, this very day, maybe at this very moment, there is a rather significant repatriation occurring in New York where both Sotheby’s and Christy’s, I believe, are returning some large statutes to Cambodia that were removed presumably in the 1970s. Those statutes have been moving around the world for some time since they were removed from their context in Cambodia. It seems that thoughtfulness and taking the high road won the day here in this very significant repatriation to Cambodia. Which was preceded last year by another significant repatriation volunteering by the Metropolitan Museum to Cambodia.
Molly Fannon: One of the issues, and maybe building off the Cambodia example, the Smithsonian established a conservation institute in Cambodia that focuses in this instance on metal objects. We received and the Smithsonian has offices whose sole responsibility is research around provenance as well as repatriation. We received calls for the repatriation of objects on a regular basis and the Smithsonian takes that responsibility quite seriously. A critical issue though that often people are not aware of that is a very pragmatic issue with repatriation is that the country that the object is going to go back needs to be prepared to properly care for that object. There was a case recently from Nicaragua where the government of Nicaragua wanted to have some objects that the Smithsonian actually does not hold officially in our collection, they are on loan to the Smithsonian from the Defense Department. Nicaragua did not have the capacity within its own museum to care for those statutes that are important to them. The Defense Department said we are happy for it to go back, and the Smithsonian said we are happy for it to go back and we are happy to teach them how to care for it and crate it. But the budget needs to be there to support the museum sector in Nicaragua and to support the exchange so that those objects in being repatriated do not then become lost. It is a very pragmatic issue. So the desire to repatriate is there, but it needs to come with the technical support to make sure that the objects are well cared for for future generations.
Maria Kouroupos: If I could just add, that is where the Vassar Fund for Cultural Preservation can come in.
Molly Fannon: Yes, that is a great idea. Maybe we will tap you for Nicaragua.
Katherine Brown: Any other questions from the members? Okay great. Thank you. We are now going to open it up to all of you. We have a host of experts and stakeholders looking at this issue from a variety perspectives that we hope to hear from, as well as the rest of the audience. Michele has that microphone so come over and we will start with Dr. Patty Gerstenblith and if you can please state your name and your affiliation before asking your question.
Patty Gerstenblith: Thank you. My name is Patty Gerstenblith. I am from DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. I want to emphasize that I am speaking in my private capacity, although it has been mentioned that I Chair an Advisory Committee in the State Department. I want to thank you for so well making the point, all three of you, on how important culture and cultural heritage preservation is in building better relations with foreign countries which then, of course, plays an important role in our national security as well.
I am glad Maria showed those pictures of Syria, particularly Afamai. Every one of those holes, I have been told by the excavator of the site, represents a floor mosaic of the Hellenistic or Roman period that has been looted. Of those kinds of objects, and many of the other kinds of objects being looted from Syria, are intended for the western art market, which indirectly feeds into your question. We saw this 10 years ago in Iraq, at the time of the looting and we see it today how woefully inadequate the U.S. legal system is to respond to cases of emergencies, true emergencies. The system that we work on, which allows the U.S. to impose import restrictions follows only a very complicated process, which has to begin through diplomatic channels. And there are many cases of armed conflict, in particular, or other areas of difficult relations where such requests are not possible.
My question, I actually have two questions. But my first and probably more important questions whether for the State Department or for the Commission is, What can be done to change our law so that we can in fact respond effectively and quickly? We know that much of this illegally trafficked and looted, and in some cases the looting is for the purpose of funding insurgencies and armed conflict, and certainly are damaging to our national security – How can the United States develop a legal position, a law or amend the law that will allow us to respond in truly effective manner?
My second question, which is certainly related, is that the law that we do operate under in the State Department is constantly under attack, particularly from the trade. Looting leads to trafficking, leads to international trade. Obviously there are people in the trade sector who are not happy with this. There is right now talk, I think fairly serious talk, in Congress to weaken this legislation. My first question was how could we strengthen it. But the second question is, what can the Commission perhaps do to help either the State Department or the public sector, to prevent weakening of the laws which establish our relations with these other countries, some of which are currently existing treaty obligations, but which some segments of Congress are interested in completed ignoring? So two challenges and questions for all of you. Thank you very much.
Bill Hybl: I guess as the only lawyer on the panel here, I’m going to respond to this. I found before in trial when you do not know what you are talking about, you probably should not say anything. The fact is, you raise a point at which I do not think the Members of the panel are fully aware and that is why we are here. We are here to gather information, we are here to learn of concerns and we have no inhibitions about bringing forward with the Members of Congress those things that should be acted upon in the interest of public diplomacy – in this case cultural diplomacy around the world, which is to the benefit, and support U.S. foreign policy. With that in mind, I would ask certainly if Rick has a comment on this.
Rick Ruth: Thank you very much, Bill. I would begin with this is also one of the reasons why the Advisory Commission exists. Because it has capacity over and above bureaucracies and appropriations to approach issues at a higher level, directed at Congress and other policymakers. Part of the issue is, as it is with national security and foreign policy, educating people to the connection between these activities and the higher level goals of the United States, as they are often so focused that they may not see that connection. For example, you mentioned the various kinds of trafficking; it is very easy to lose sight of trafficking in antiquities when one sees trafficking of persons, trafficking of wildlife, trafficking of drugs, trafficking or arms. A natural reaction, a perfectly understandable reaction by many policymakers and legislators, is that it is serious, that is important – but surely it is in fifth place after all of those others. . We want to do that on a very practical level. It is often said in discussions that it has to first be medicine and food and shelter and water. We just cannot get to art and culture and architecture. What people are unfortunately, painfully, slowly learning is what Molly pointed out: That often the most memorable and important thing to people in those societies is that we preserve their cultural heritage. Quickly, I will not go on, but all Americans have seen repeatedly pictures of cities and neighborhoods in the United States destroyed by tornadoes. When the owners of those destroyed houses and schools are picking through the remains, what are they looking for? They are looking for photographs, they are looking for family mementos, and they are not looking for trade objects, they are not thinking about their jobs. They want to preserve what is the soul of their family, or the soul of their society. It very quickly becomes a political issue. We have to spread that word that this is not something peripheral, or secondary or marginal, this is something that is directly important and will help us rebuild that society or rebuild that relationship, or end that kind of dangerous trafficking. That is a heavy lift, I agree with you, Patty, that is going to take a lot of education.
Bill Hybl: Let me assure you of one thing, you raise a great issue. We are going to get smarter about this, finding out about what the existing legislation is and what has been proposed. Because with antiquities, with cultural effects, you can monetize those and they are being monetized in a way that is detrimental. Just like these others, you mentioned, whether it is drugs or trafficking humans in support of efforts, which are very detrimental to the United States.
Patty Gerstenblith: I make an offer to the Commission on behalf to provide you with more information.
Bill Hybl: We take that offer, thank you.
Katherine Brown: Maria, do you have a point you want to make?
Maria Kouroupas: Yes, very quickly and at the risk of being reprimanded by Patty. It has been brought to our attention in the Cultural Heritage Center numerous times by the law enforcement community not only domestically, but internationally, that the trade in antiquities is now very organized very effectively by mafia groups, by gangs. They are the same people who traffic in drugs, who traffic in humans, who traffic in wildlife. So I think this is now risen to the scale of these other trafficking activities to a very alarming degree. I think that this is something that Congress should be made aware of unfortunately there are certain things that we cannot discuss because they are part of the law enforcement communities’ ongoing investigations. But it is serious, it is very serious. Not even to mention about the money laundering involved in all of this, so it is not fluff. As Rick has said, he used to be my boss, he said, “Cultural heritage is not for the faint of heart.” It is not. This is our mantra in the office.
Katherine Brown: Dr. Albro?
Robert Albro: Thanks, Rob Albro, American University. I wanted to build on Rick’s comment, which I thought put his finger on an important issue with is where broadly culture sits in policy decision making space in the DC metro area specifically, but broadly in the U.S. The problem there that we have and the part of it has to do with some of the things we regret [inaudible], which is the prevailing sense in which the question of culture is a secondary consideration. I want to make a few quick points about that.
One is that one of the challenges we have, which I think you appreciate much more than many, is moving beyond a narrow conception of arts and culture where arts leads the way and what we mean is a series of essentially expressive artistic endeavors that we identify classically with we might call high cultural “…” Rather than a broader appreciation of culture as it transects the policy decision-making in all kinds of ways, broadly across the global landscape. I am talking about cultures as property, as heritage, as capital, as goods and services, a creative economy, culture’s entanglements with rights, culture and with digital content – a wide range of forums in which culture is quite relevant. But also this is to my second point. The first point is we hear many ways in a policy mode laboring with the wrong and narrow conception of the questions as if what we are talking about is the idea of museums as temples of cultures. What Molly was talking about, I think quite appropriately, was throughout the changing world of museums is critical nodes of things like humanitarian response, a very different but appropriate role. That is the first point, we have to change how we understand where culture comes into the equation and our tendency to promote these narrow notions of arts and culture is detrimental to that broad goal.
The second is that while we have been talking about culture and diplomacy – and Rick you were also pointing to some of the vast array of things happening around ECA – part of what we also loose, and this is connected to this first point, is that whatever we might here think, wherever the question of culture sits within the U.S. space where we might think about arts, agencies and funding for the arts -- these are all critically important things, but not the only things. It is what other people in the world think about the question of culture that is quite relevant, if what we are talking about is public diplomacy. And there, culture is critically important. Where culture is sitting in terms of national identity politics, let us point to the Ukraine at the moment and the role of culture in the constitutional referenda, and all kinds of things involving the relation of culture, to sustainable human development and so forth. Other people are very invested in this and if we are interested in meeting them where they are at, and where their interest lie, our relation to culture needs to change.
Rick Ruth: Thank you very much, very quickly a few points and then one admonishment. First of all, you are absolutely right about the mirror imaging. We should not fall into the trap of thinking that every country considers culture and looks upon their culture the way we look upon ours. Poets and dancers and song and language and non-tangible cultural heritage are often vastly more important in other countries. And foreign policy decision-makers need to understand that so it is not about what we send, it is about what they receive, what they need, what they want, that is tailored and appropriate for them.
We also have a rather interesting predicament with the arts – and you are right that it is often difficult to separate the issue of culture and heritage broadly from the issue of arts in the United States. Because if this session was about a purely developmental project and this room was full of civil engineers and hydrologists, nobody in Congress would ever say, “Oh, you got that guy from AU? The hydrologist from somewhere else is much better.” When it comes to the arts, every American exercises his or her God-given right to be the final arbiter. That piece of artwork sucks, I don’t like it! Why are you spending my money to send that crappy singer, that hip-hop group, that lousy sculpture? That is our God-given right and we exercise it and that includes all 535 members of Congress and all their staff. It is hard to pull it back into a larger dialogue but we have to do that. Most nations would find it--most nations do find it--puzzling that America essentially applies a cost benefit analysis to our culture. When French diplomats go abroad, it would be inconceivable of them to not go with their culture, their language, their art, their history, their food. But we are expected to do that. We do not go abroad as Americans in full flower. We often go abroad as some sort of homogenized sterilized diplomatic representatives. We do not bring our food and our language and our culture and our arts and everything with us because that is subject to this extra level of scrutiny. Is that bearing freight? What is the impact? Have you evaluated that lately? What is the quantitative data on that? That is our daily life.
But my final admonition and I will be quiet; I am riding my hobbyhorse for all it is worth. [Laughter.] There is one place where often we all fall down, and myself included: We have to speak the language of people who make the decisions and hold the purse strings. We are all often so thoroughly convinced of the rightness of our position that it creeps inevitably through our presentations that those who disagree are philistines somehow. They do not get how important and just and proper and righteous this is. That is not the way to talk to people that you need something from and we have to be frank about that.
Molly Fannon: I think maybe that is one of the reasons I was chosen to head up international relations at the Smithsonian was because I did not come from a museum background. The ability to say well, “Why does that matter?” is an important one. Because we often are so convinced of the value of what we are doing that if we cannot speak about value in the language that USAID understands and cares about, or the Defense Department or the Hill, then we are lost. But since your hobbyhorse was riding, I just I might touch on something.
There is one thing that is the official U.S. Government policy on something and what the U.S. Government can do when it sends a diplomatic mission abroad. Then there is the whole question of partnering and partnerships. The Smithsonian, the State Department, the Defense Department hold much of the responsibility legally for cultural heritage. We have the expertise, we at the Smithsonian certainly and we as the broader cultural sector across the United States and we would be thrilled to partner on a more regular and formal basis to support the efforts of the U.S. Government. One very simple, low cost way that we have already started to do that is now every outgoing U.S. Ambassador, through the State Department, has a day or lunch at the Smithsonian. We bring all the people at the Smithsonian who have been working on that country together to talk about what is going on there, what the intricacies are. We are working with the arts and embassies program where maybe we can start to get some really interesting Smithsonian exhibits traveling abroad. We are working to build an internationally travelling exhibit center of excellence at the Smithsonian. All Cultural Affairs Officers now, as a part of their formal training, are spending a day at the Smithsonian so that they can understand not just Smithsonian issues, but cultural issues broadly. That is not just the U.S. culture, not just what is represented in our American History Museum, but what is represented at the Native American Museum, at our African Art Museum, at our Latino Center. We are really starting to – because I snagged Aviva – to really bring the Smithsonian hand in glove together with our colleagues at the State Department and with USAID to enrich that experience. Because then all boats rise, we achieve our mission better and you achieve your mission.
Katherine Brown: Maria?
Maria Kouroupas: Just very quickly, getting back to Congress. There are rays of light that have come out of Congress. They gave us legislation, albeit rather burdensome, to implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Trafficking in Cultural Property. They did give us the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation for all the right reasons. They did give us the Cultural Antiquities Task Force for all the right reasons to help with recovery. There are developments within Congress that are perhaps more enlightened than others, but I just wanted to comment on that.
Katherine Brown: Great. Lynn, did you have a question?
Lynn Nicholas: I just had a comment. I think this is an extremely complicated thing. I mean I work mostly in the area of World War II claims, repatriation, restitution and the background of [inaudible] holocausting, looting and assets. I think, there are many, many constituencies involved in this, for example most of the people who deal with antiquities and then Native American things – we do not really have much to do with each other. These are all separate areas and particularly the World War II stuff is very greatly concerned with the fine arts. I have to say that the art trade and fine arts is one of the biggest unregulated industries in the world. We are talking billions of dollars; there is no international regulation, very little regulation in this country of art dealers and the trade. That would be a whole different kettle of fish.
I mean I think cultural diplomacy that you are talking about, sending our cultural people abroad is an excellent thing. Though I have to disagree that American culture is pervasive, I just have been in Europe for a month and there is not a corner without a Starbucks, a McDonald’s, rock music coming out of the old brauhaus's. I think our culture is pretty well represented over there and often causes resentment and has led sometimes to the suppression and loss of some other things that we used to go to Europe for. On the other hand, I was in the City of Santiago de Compostela that fantastic cathedral in an ancient, ancient pilgrimage site and I know there is a lot of – Spain of course has had a big problem with the building boom. There are all these empty buildings around there, so I said to somebody, “What do people do in the new suburbs of this ancient city?” I said, “What is the main industry?” And he said, “Tourism.” Tourism is a very good thing and I think that support to world cultural heritage sites is absolutely vital. I think this Commission – there cannot be any global solution to this, you have to take things one thing at a time. As Maria said, if you can get the Smithsonian program, which is terrific, and everybody has to work in their own constituency to try to improve whatever they see as wrong. There is no simple global thing and I do think that encouraging other countries to cooperate with us as much as possible and absolutely not to be arrogant about it is the most important thing.
Katherine Brown: Thank you.
Lynn Nicholas: I could go on, thank you.
Sim Farar: Quick question. This to me has been extremely informative to have you speakers here because I live in Los Angeles we do not have much culture out there, just film business. [Laughter.]
Molly Fannon: It’s your culture that’s global. [Laughter.]
Sim Farar: It is amazing to me what is going on here and I am so happy that our Commission has been able to hear this and possibly, with our Executive Director, we can really do something to make people more aware of this. I am going to ask a very brief question. When you talk to Congress, are there deaf ears there or are just talking to one person? There are 535 people there. Is the message getting across?
Rick Ruth: We all speak for our own experience. As Maria pointed out, the 535 members of Congress are all across the spectrum. By and large they are not deaf. People often are sympathetic. They do not dismiss the importance of these activities; it is a question of priorities. There are only so many hours in a day, there are only so many dollars in an appropriation, there are pressing needs and they are focused on other things first. It is not that they are opponents of what we are trying to do. Every now and then somebody does take a strong position that is against these kinds of programs. That tends to be a distinct minority. Usually it is just a question of where are your priorities on any given day and office holder and budget and these [cultural issues] drift down to a lower level. But there are some champions who have done some very good things as Maria itemized.
Katherine Brown: Go ahead.
Molly Fannon: This is a real challenge for us at the Smithsonian and an opportunity for us. As a quasi-federal agency, we are also able to raise private funding to support our work. One of the challenges that we are working on right now is messaging. The Smithsonian as a huge organization the stories that I told today Corie Wegner, who is sitting in the front, is our Cultural Preservation Officer at the Smithsonian who is responsible for our work in planning for Syria with Maria in Egypt in Mali and in other countries. But everything else happens across the Smithsonian, so we are working to bring the message together as one comprehensive whole because there is a lot more power that way. I think the more that we can do that together with other partners within the U.S. Government and the nonprofit sector, to bring it as a comprehensive whole rather than lots of silo-ed examples we would gain much more traction both with our Hill constituency as well as our private constituency.
Katherine Brown: Great. We are literally out of time. But I will make time for one more quick question.
Sim Farar: We could speak for hours on this.
Katherine Brown: We could, we could. Yes.
Richard Jackson: Hi, I am Dick Jackson. I am speaking really from my membership position on the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, in my personal capacity. My day job is as legal advisor to the Judge Advocate General on Law of Work matters for the Department of the Army. Really, this point is a personal point and focused on the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield work. In 2009, we ratified the 1954 Hague Convention that was a milestone for the U.S. Government. Really as a follow on to Patty’s point, the ratification of Protocol One and Protocol Two to the 1954 convention can have a significant impact on the trafficking problem when it is related to armed conflict, which is one of the topics that we are talking about today. I would just emphasize that the ratification of those two protocols would assist in creating a baseline for, in international law, for follow-on efforts by the Congress to prohibit trafficking of antiquities that are looted during times of armed conflict.
Katherine Brown: Thank you very much, Dick.
Anne Terman Wedner: I get the pleasure of ending this and unfortunately, I feel as if we are ending in the middle of a conversation. We obviously all need to spend more time talking to each other about these important issues. I think though today, even though with the short time, we had some interesting and important examples and next steps. And I am glad you could say something from the Defense perspective because that obviously gives more weight to our national decision-making apparatus.
We want to thank our speakers today. You did a great job of pulling out a complex subject. [Applause].
As Bill said in his opening remarks, the Commission will not be holding a public meeting this summer. Our next meeting will be on September 16, 2014 and we will be discussing a related topic in many ways because the bottom line always seems to be something that influences funding decisions in Congress, and that is how we evaluate the impact of public diplomacy and international broadcasting. We invite you all to return and maybe we will schedule a little more time because there is obviously so many opinions and ideas that need to come forward. For this meeting we are working with about a dozen researchers from different academic institutions, everything from the University of Southern California and Georgia State University to American University and Harvard University. Even our hosts today here at GW are involved in this project. They have been all working with State and BBG to evaluate how we measure the impact of these programs over time. So what we are going to see in September is the result of their thinking and we are really excited about that.
I just want to say for all the Commission members, thank you to Katherine for keeping us on this incredible schedule. [Laughter.] And for all of these interesting and important areas that we are trying to create a discussion on. I think the Commission’s main job is that of being able to convene and discuss and raise the importance of issues. So thank you all for being here today. [Applause].