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

© Dirección General de Bellas Artes, Secretaría de Cultura del Gobiern
Restitution of the stolen cargo of the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes. The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage prohibits pillaging and commercial exploitation of submerged archaeological sites.

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.

It will focus on the issue of quantification and identification of threats to underwater cultural heritage especially in what regards pillage and commercial exploitation and on preventive measures to be taken. International experts will present their experiences, followed by a round table which will allow the exchange of views regarding the effectiveness of the means used.

The meeting will bring together representatives of the States Parties to the UNESCO 2001 Convention and other States, experts representing different national authorities (Culture and Foreign Ministries, Navy, Customs, Coastguards, Police, Museums etc.) and international organizations (UNESCO, INTERPOL, Europol, etc.).

Underwater cultural heritage has become increasingly accessible with the development of diving techniques, which allow the reach of greater depths not only by scientists and archaeologists, but also by treasure hunters and salvage explorers. Since then, looting of underwater archaeological sites and the destruction of their context have increased rapidly and threaten to deprive humanity of this heritage. The pillaging and dispersion of archaeological heritage is no longer restricted to land-based sites with treasure-hunting now heavily increasing in underwater sites. Nevertheless, while many States have strengthened the preservation of their heritage on land, most of their underwater cultural heritage remains unprotected. An issue is also that the artefacts coming from pillaging or commercial exploitation operations are trafficked or dealt with on an international market or exhibited in museums. Ports remain open to pillagers, which can thus continue to work.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage is aimed at, among others, providing States Parties with an international legal mechanism to protect their submerged heritage. However, ratification must be accompanied by the effective national implementation of the Convention and mobilization of the adequate means to achieve it.

The main objective of the international meeting is to continue and reinforce the implementation of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, especially with regards to practical questions such as site preservation and monitoring, as well as existing measures to prevent illicit or unethical trafficking of underwater cultural heritage. 




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