21.09.2017 - Culture Sector

UNESCO and ASEAN join forces to strengthen the protection of underwater heritage in the Southeast Asian region

The meeting took place on 19-20 September 2017 in Makassar, Indonesia. © Ulrike Guérin, UNESCO

The region of Southeast Asia boasts a rich history of being at the crossroads of maritime trade and an immense marine resources with high biodiversity. Due to pillage and over exploitation, the region's underwater cultural and natural heritage is at risk.

UNESCO and ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nationas, with the kind support of the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia, organized a joint conference aimed at strengthening the protection of underwater heritage in the Southeast Asian region. The Conference was held on 19-20 September 2017, in Makassar, Indonesia.

The conference gathered key actors working in the field of underwater cultural heritage protection from ASEAN Member States and Timor-Leste, as well as other experts on underwater heritage conservation. The organizers, the experts and the participants expressed their gratitude to the authorities of South Sulawesi for their welcoming.

One of the main objectives of the conference was to promote understanding of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, together with sharing experiences on the challenges in the protection of underwater cultural heritage and raising awareness on the importance of developing measures for the protection of underwater heritage such as through the adoption of national-level legislation or strategies.

As a result of the Conference, the participants made the following recommandations:

  • Establish national competent authorities for the protection and research of Underwater Cultural Heritage;
  • Foster the training and academic capacity building of underwater cultural heritage professionals;
  • Promote research on underwater cultural heritage including its historical  and natural context and foster cooperation in this regard.
  • Take all necessary steps to advance the process towards the ratification of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in the participating countries, if they have not yet ratified.
  • Promote the establishment of museums and other types of responsible access to Underwater Cultural Heritage, also to increase sustainable cultural tourism.
  • Inventorize underwater cultural heritage sites, and foster their operational protection against pillage and commercial exploitation as well as all other negatively impacting human activities;
  • Promote community involvement in the management of UCH and encourage the community members to report such heritage, when discovered;
  • Ensure cooperation between the national institutions in the participating countries, among these  countries as well as with international organizations;
  • Develop common activities and programmes on Underwater Cultural Heritage.

UNESCO was the first UN Organization with whom ASEAN signed a Framework agreement since its Charter came into force in 2008. This agreement defines a number of priority areas for cooperation, among others the protection of underwater cultural heritage.

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