13.03.2018 - Culture Sector

Federate States of Micronesia first Pacific Ocean Nation to ratify with the 2001 Convention

The Federate States of Micronesia (FSM) ratify the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. They will be the 59th State Party to the Convention, following recent ratifications by Egypt, Kuwait and Bolivia.

The Pacific Ocean is rich in significant submerged cultural heritage sites, including ancient sunken villages, shipwrecks of missionaries and explorers and the material heritage of indigenous communities. In addition to this, the Pacific Ocean is the resting place of a great number of World War I and II vessels and war graves that are particularly popular for recreational diving and tourism.

The 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage promotes the protection, conservation and the responsible access to underwater cultural heritage, contributing to sustainable development for local communities. The ratification of the 2001 Convention will aid in the implementation of legislation that protects and conserves underwater cultural heritage, and will help contributing to economic growth, social inclusion and in the protection of the environment, encouraging local, regional and international cooperation.  

The FSM are largely defined by its extensive number of submerged World War II  shipwrecks, particularly in Chuuk Lagoon (formerly Truk Lagoon). The accessibility of these sites have led them to becoming popular recreational dive sites, and therefore represent a significant economic asset to the region. There is however evidence that the sites have been pillaged and tampered with, posing a significant threat to the sustainability of the tourism industry and the significant heritage. The 2001 Convention does not specifically protect submerged heritage sites that are under 100 years old, however in the case of sites that are of particular significance, its Scientific Advisory Body encourages States Parties to enlarge the protection to them. Chuuk Lagoon heritage protection was supported by a recent UNESCO mission to evaluate the status of the shipwrecks and possible risks to their protection and that of the natural contexts where they are found. UNESCO published moreover the book ‘Safeguarding Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Pacific: report on the protection and management of WWII related underwater cultural heritage’ with the conclusion of this mission and research, financed by the Heritage Emergency Fund.

The ratification of the 2001 Convention will allow to better protect FSM’s highly significant sites. The ratification comes at a time of particular importance for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The natural and cultural heritage of ocean areas is increasingly threatened by challenges such as commercial exploitation, resource exploration, infrastructure development, climate change and natural disasters. This move acts as a significant contribution towards the affirmation of Small Island States in their commitment to underwater cultural heritage for sustainable ocean development.

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