23.11.2018 - Culture Sector

Safeguarding Underwater Cultural Heritage for Blue Economy

The Side Event on Safeguarding Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH) for Sustainable Development took place on 1 November 2018 at the Inter-regional Meeting for the Mid-term Review of the SAMOA Pathway (Apia, 30 October – 1 November 2018).

In light of the fact that oceans represent an important element of identity and culture for the people of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the SAMOA Pathway supports “SIDS to conserve their valuable UCH” and invites “SIDS to become parties to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage” (paragraphs 54 and 58). The Side Event provided the SIDS delegates attending the Inter-regional Meeting with the opportunity to have updates on the progress in the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway in terms of the UCH safeguarding.

Welcoming the panelists and the people present, Ms Nisha, UNESCO’s Director and Representative to the Pacific States, stated "UCH holds the history of the planet and human civilization that is now underwater. They have a cultural significance as well as conservation dimension and offer great potential for sustainable tourism and income-generation for local communities."

As a moderator of the Side Event, Ms Akatsuki Takahashi, UNESCO's Advisor for Culture drew the attentions of the audience to the three key questions to be addressed; i) What is UCH?, ii) Why is UCH safeguarding important for the global agenda such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)? and iii) How can we strengthen the UCH safeguarding?

Dr William Jeffery, Assistant Professor in Archaeology at the University of Guam, which is an associate member of the UNESCO’s network of universities for maritime archaeology, illustrated the diversity of UCH, showing a video taken by using a drone on the fish weirs in the Yap State of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) uniquely belonging to the indigenous people in the Pacific. Dr Jeffery also provided information on the ongoing project in the Chuuk State with the aims of mitigating the risks of oil leakage from the World War II-related wrecks in its lagoon. Linking the UCH safeguarding to the multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), his presentation concluded with the video on Cancun Underwater Museum, highlighting its message for environmental protection and its economic impact on the local community.

The presentation of Ms Leituala Kuniselani Teolupe Tago-Elisara, Director of the Social Development Programme at the Pacific Community (SPC) was focused on the traditional, indigenous and local knowledge associated with the underwater and coastal-area heritage in Pacific SIDS. She drew the attention to the 1st Quadrennial Pacific Sustainable Development Report prepared by the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) with CROP and the UN agencies, calling for the need to strengthen investment in the culture sector as a sector of the nation’s economy.

Lastly, Ms Christina Leala-Gale, Sustainable Tourism Development Manager at the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) made a presentation introducing the new Marine-Eco Tourism Initiative. Christina appreciated the learning opportunity provided by the Side Event, and reiterated SPTO’s commitment to developing sustainable tourism that makes a balance between the protection and promotion of the heritage, while benefiting the Pacific community.

Summarizing the presentations, Ms Takahashi said, "Abundant in SIDS, UCH is beyond wrecks. It includes submerged human settlements and structures, ancient harbours, flooded caves with rock arts, fish weirs, etc. UCH not only reconstructs past cultures, but also advances climate knowledge, and contributes to the Blue Economy”.

UNESCO will continue to work with SIDS and partners to support the achievement of the SDGs through assisting researches and projects for the protection of UCH.

Click here for event flyer.




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