International Year of Small Island Developing States

Fujikawa Maru. Copyright Greg Adams

The International Year of Small Island Developing States will focus the world's attention on a group of countries that remain a special case for sustainable development in view of their unique and particular vulnerabilities.

Small Island Developping States (SIDS) have made significant advances towards sustainable island living. Faced with a future whose only certainty is change, they continue to have many challenges before them – some intrinsic and timeless, others extrinsic and new. That being said, small island societies have a record of thriving in challenging times. Their long histories are characterized by innovative approaches to problems, societal mobilization and adaptation rooted in tradition and continuity.

While the world has already registered the need to better protect, research and develop the ocean environment and biodiversity, the significance of cultural heritage - fully recognized on land - has yet to be completely acknowledged in the context of the sea. The importance of this heritage, extensively present in SIDS States, has, however, already been recognized by UNCLOS,  UN resolution A/RES/66/231, and is regulated through the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, which has been ratified by many SIDS States. 

Underwater Cultural Heritage represents a rich part of the world's cultural heritage that is often underestimated. Due to their unique location the SIDS States possess a particularly wide assortment of potential underwater cultural heritage sites.

On the occasion of this International Year of Small Island Developing States, the UNESCO Secretariat will organize several events towards the promotion of underwater cultural heritage. These events will raise awareness of the importance of the submerged heritage of SIDS States and its significance for their cultural identity. UNESCO will also seek to underline the potential of underwater cultural heritage for sustainable tourism in SIDS.

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