29.11.2017 - Culture Sector

International Conferences on Underwater Cultural Heritage take place in China and Asian Region

© UNESCO/U. Guerin

On 24th to 26th November, 2017, the China National Centre of Underwater Cultural Heritage supported by UNESCO organized an international conference on the “Discovery and Research of the NanhaiⅠ Shipwreck” at Hailing Island, Yangjiang County, Guangdong Province, China.

The conference focused on several topics relating to Underwater Archaeology in China and Asia, especially it debated the Nanhai Ⅰ Shipwreck, and the implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. The NanhaiⅠ Shipwreck is one of the oldest and largest ancient sunken ships ever found in China, and the discovery of this ship marks the very beginning of Chinese underwater archaeology. As the representative of the Secretariat of UNESCO’s Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention, Ms Himalchuli Gurung, participated in this conference on 25th November, to talk about the protection of underwater cultural heritage and Asia’s interest in the development of scientific underwater archaeology. She particularly underlined the need for a wide ratification of the 2001 Convention.

Underwater cultural heritage encompasses all traces of human existence that lie or were lying under water and have a cultural or historical character. The Asian region boasts a rich history of maritime trade and an immense submerged heritage. Due to pillage and over exploitation, the region's underwater cultural heritage is at risk. Underwater cultural heritage needs safeguarding and proper scientific research.

Ms Gurung delivered an opening speech at the conference. In her speech, she drew the attention to the urgency of protecting Asia’s underwater cultural heritage on the Maritime Silk Road and called on China to ratify the 2001 Convention. She said “China’s 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative urges for a better protection of underwater cultural heritage on the Maritime Silk Road. This better protection demands efforts from China as much as from the international community. The UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage provides an international legal framework for China and for the whole of Asia to protect underwater cultural heritage and facilitate cooperation with other States.”

Followed the opening, Ms Gurung gave a keynote speech on the importance of the UNESCO 2001 Convention for China and the Asian Region. Recognizing the urgent need to preserve and protect underwater cultural heritage, UNESCO, through the Secretariat of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, provides States Parties with an international legal mechanism to protect their submerged heritage, ensuring the application of the best international scientific standards. While having a very rich submerged heritage, many Asian countries are faced with the challenge of on-going pillaging or commercial exploitation attempts on the underwater cultural heritage sites; however, to date, few countries in Asia have ratified the UNESCO 2001 Convention. She introduced the principles of the 2001 Convention, providing an overview of UNESCO’s activities in the world, and taking some examples of benefits of states who have joined the Convention.

In addition to this event, the third Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage was held in Hong Kong’s Maritime Museum from 27 November to 2 December 2017 under UNESCO’s auspices. The Conference aimed to address management and protection strategies of underwater cultural heritage in Asia and the countries of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the 21st Century. During the meeting, ratification of the UNESCO 2001 Convention was a major point of discussions and encouragement by the academic circles. The UNESCO Secretariat presented underwater and maritime archaeology capacity building in the Pacific Islands.

UNESCO encourages regional and global cooperation in the protection on the underwater cultural heritage to achieve also SDG 14. Protecting underwater cultural heritage from imminent threats and fostering its research facilitates a more comprehensive protection and understanding of the oceans.

See the video: EN: https://youtu.be/vrfA6wZWCWs

CN: https://youtu.be/kMhJ0_a1J2M

See more at: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/UoGRPgEE5VZ6XW1-Kg4CBw

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