08.09.2016 - Culture Sector

International Meeting on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Sites, 22-23 September, Paris

An International Meeting on Underwater Cultural Heritage Sites Protection will be held on 22 and 23 September 2016 at UNESCO Headquarters (22nd September in Room II and 23rd in Room IX, Fontenoy building) in support of implementing the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

The purpose of the meeting is to support the implementation of UNESCO’s Convention on  the Protection of the Underwater Heritage. Participants will include leading experts, among them James Delgado of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Ricardo Duarte, of the Eduardo Mondlane University (Mozambique), Michel L’Hour of the Department of Underwater Archaeological Research of France’s Ministry of Culture, and underwater archaeologist Michael Pateman from the Bahamas.

They will examine questions concerning the monitoring of sites, pillaging and the trade in illegally or unscientifically salvaged cultural artefacts (see Programme). There will also be presentations concerning recent examples of pillage such as the case of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes*.

Advances in diving equipment have placed underwater remains within the reach of archaeologists and treasure hunters alike and the pillaging of such sites is spreading. While many States have reinforced the protection of their heritage on land, most undrwater heritage remains unprotected. 

UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage has been designed to improve the protection of submerged heritage, in line with what is done on land. Fifty-five countries have ratified the Convention to date, committing to safeguard this heritage, banning its commercial exploitation and pillaging. The Convention also seeks to encourage the exchange of infromation and draw attention to the importance of this heritage. The Convention doe not, however, address disputes regarding ownership of submerged properties.

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*Spanish frigate sunk off the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula in 1804 with a cargo of several tons of gold and silver coins which were pillaged 2007

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