08.02.2019 - Culture Sector

The Arab Region meets to discuss their coastal and underwater cultural heritage

From 28-31 of January 2019, competent authorities, underwater and maritime archeologists and heritage managers from the Arab Region met in the United Arab Emirates for a workshop on the protection and management of the maritime, coastal and underwater cultural heritage. This event was organized in cooperation amongst the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAB) and the ICCROM Center for the Arab Region in Sharjah and UNESCO.

The meeting aimed at encouraging a larger number of ratifications. Indeed, the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage has been ratified by only 11 of the 22 Arab Member States of the Organization, although all of them possess historic coastlines and a very rich maritime past.

The archeological remains in the coastal and underwater context in the Region are not only under threat of pillage by treasure hunters but also vulnerable to climate change, land reclamation projects and coastal urban development. Greater awareness of the existence of this rich cultural heritage is essential to bring decision makers to the ranks of protectors. Urban developers and companies exploiting natural resources have a lot to gain by working hand-in-hand with heritage experts to carry archeological impact assessments to identify potential archeological remains that could also become touristic attractions embedded in the project from the planning phase and contribute to sustainable development of the area.    

The workshop, which was held both in the installations of the ICCROM-Sharjah and the Campus of the New York University Abu Dhabi, was a unique opportunity for countries to present the elements of their maritime, underwater and coastal archeological heritage and to exchange ideas for international cooperation, in particular through exchange of experts and the creation of regional projects in this field, to enhance capacity building and to see more and more youth in the Arab World interested in the study and scientific research of the underwater cultural heritage. The campus of the NYUAB was an ideal venue to promote interest in this fascinating world in the minds of youth.

With the support of UNESCO and its field offices in the Arab Region, ICCROM, through its center in Sharjah and the universities in UNITWIN network of Underwater Archaeology, projects dealing with the proper management of underwater cultural resources including archeological surveys, research and conservation should see the light in the near future.

Legal advice on the adaptation of national laws to better implement the 2001 Convention will also be in the agenda of activities that have been agreed upon by the participants in this important event for the protection and preservation of the cultural heritage that is found in coastal areas or under the surface of the sea, lakes or rivers in the Arab Region.

The recommendations resulting from this meeting will be presented to the Meeting of State Parties to the 2001 Convention to take place in Paris in June 2019.


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