Foreword by the Director-General

© UNESCO
Sra. Irina Bokova, Directora General de la UNESCO.

Since the entry into force of the 2001 Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, the international community has at last been empowered with a comprehensive set of legal instruments in the field of culture. UNESCO’s core cultural conventions cover key aspects of our shared heritage. They range from built and natural sites to intangible and contemporary expressions and to protection against illicit trafficking and property threatened by armed conflict. Designed to function in a complementary manner, these conventions constitute a powerful tool for safeguarding cultural diversity, which is now widely recognized as vital to the sustainable development of all societies.

The 2001 Convention focuses on an often overlooked component of the world’s cultural heritage: the ancient shipwrecks, sunken cities, flooded caves and other underwater remains that carry cultural or historical significance for humanity. This novel legal instrument aims to provide such underwater treasures with the same universal protection accorded to heritage on land. Another major objective is to facilitate the cooperation among nations that is so indispensable for underwater heritage’s proper safeguarding. By thus promoting and guiding the development of sustainable and responsible underwater archaeology, UNESCO hopes to curb damage from human intrusion and illicit looting with a view to preserving this irreplaceable heritage for future generations.

In the decade since its adoption, the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and its Annex have gained worldwide recognition as the foremost reference for the safeguarding of submerged archaeological sites. This is a source of great satisfaction and encouragement for UNESCO and all those committed to heritage protection.

The present manual is designed to help specialists and decision-makers understand the “Rules Concerning Activities Directed at Underwater Cultural Heritage” contained in the Annex of the Convention and to facilitate their practical day-to-day application. An international team of renowned archaeologists assisted UNESCO in the preparation of this manual. We are most grateful for their dedication and collaboration. It is my sincere hope that this new UNESCO publication will lead to a more efficient and wider implementation of the 2001 Convention.

Irina Bokova

Director-General of UNESCO

Back to top