Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Jennifer Taw

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Rights Information

2023 Molly E Luce


Cultural racketeering, the looting and trafficking of cultural heritage sites to fund conflict, violence, or terrorism, has become a prevalent issue across the globe in recent years. This paper identifies the main actors, the sellers and buyers, of the looted antiquities and outlines several cases. Sellers, such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda, pillage and traffic sites of cultural, religious, or historic importance as a funding source for their illicit activities. Buyers, which include museums and elite private collectors, purchase these antiquities and inadvertently fund terrorism. The international community has condemned these actors and implemented policies in response. The conventions that multinational institutions like the United Nations have ratified have been insufficient in counteracting these practices. This paper analyzes the efficacy of international organizations’ responses and examines the reasons why they fail. These reasons include (1) challenges of national sovereignty, (2) inadequate buy-in from member states, (3) flaws in the top-down policy implementation approach, and (4) lack of sufficient resources. Failing to respond effectively not only poses a grave security threat but also risks the loss of crucial sites and objects of human history.