Protecting the Underwater Cultural Heritage of Africa’s Atlantic Coast

©Erwan Savin

As an important crossroads in the world’s maritime history, the Atlantic coast of the African continent contain a rich legacy on its sea bed encompassing protohistoric sites, ship wrecks and other cultural properties. This fragile submerged heritage makes it possible to trace the maritime history of the civilizations that preceded us. Therefore, the Dakar Office is committed to the protection and promotion of this significant heritage that bears witness of the maritime dynamism of the region.

The UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, adopted in November 2001, provides a comprehensive framework for the protection of underwater cultural properties. This normative instrument, which addresses the protection of underwater cultural heritage in all waters, also provides tools to make this heritage accessible to the public.

In line with the objectives of the 2001 Convention and with SDG 14, which helps to integrate the ocean history and underwater cultural heritage into global efforts for conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, the Dakar Office thus focuses its action in the following areas:

  • Raise awareness of African countries located on the Atlantic coast on the benefits of ratifying the 2001 Convention;
  • Encourage States to better protect underwater cultural heritage through the establishment of legal protection measures at the local level;
  • Support States Parties in the establishment of training programmes on underwater archaeology at institutions of higher learning as well as in providing training for defense and security forces ;
  • Promote this submerged heritage to benefit the local communities contributing blue economy.
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