Costa Rican communities and institutions strengthen their capacities to protect underwater cultural heritage

Costa Rica ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, known as the 2001 Convention, in February 2018. Since then, UNESCO has supported the country in the consolidation of a legal framework to ensure the implementation of this instrument, in order to foster cultural development, economic growth, and the protection of the country's natural resources. As a follow-up to this accompaniment, UNESCO organized a series of event for the Promotion of Underwater Cultural Heritage in Costa Rica, with the aim of supporting the efforts of multiple institutions and civil society organisations in the country.

Organized in the framework of the “Mesa Caribe” initiative together with the Second Vice-Presidency of Costa Rica, the Ministry of Culture and Youth, the National Museum of Costa Rica, the events took place on 10 and 11 June 2021 and consisted of two training and awareness-raising workshops on the implementation of the 2001 Convention in Costa Rica. The first workshop, organized thanks to the support of the Ambassadors of the Sea Community Diving Centre in Cahuita, consisted of a workshop with a community approach, aimed primarily at the youth of the town of Cahuita, which in recent years have led initiatives for the protection of submerged archaeological sites in the locality. It was attended by representatives of the Ambassadors of the Sea Community Diving Centre, the National Museum of Costa Rica, the University of Costa Rica, the Ministry of Culture and Youth and UNOPS.

The opening of the community workshop included messages from Mr. Marvin Rodriguez, Vice President of the Republic and coordinator of the Mesa Caribe initiative, Ms. Sylvie Duran, Minister of Culture and Youth, Mr. Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture and Mr. Enrique Joseph, Presidential Commissioner for Afro-descendant Affairs of Costa Rica.

La apertura del taller comunitario contó mensajes del señor Marvin Rodríguez, Vicepresidente de la República y coordinador de la iniciativa Mesa Caribe, la señora Sylvie Durán, Ministra de Cultura y Juventud, el señor Ernesto Ottone, Subdirector de la UNESCO para la Cultura y el señor Enrique Joseph, Comisionado presidencial para asuntos de la Afrodescendencia de Costa Rica.

The new generations, with a clear understanding of their history, their commitment and awareness, can protect their heritage and allow others to responsibly come and enjoy the beauty and legacy that the Caribbean region has to offer, thereby generating new sources of employment and economic reactivation,
Marvin Rodríguez, Vice President of Costa Rica
The commitment of young people inspires us to keep promoting this type of training activities, which are essential to transmit technical knowledge, professional skills and to ensure the active involvement of the community in the tasks of research, conservation and dissemination of underwater cultural heritage.
Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture

The second workshop was aimed at institutions linked to the operationalisation of the 2001 Convention, such as the Ministry of Culture and Youth, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the National Museum of Costa Rica, the Environmental Technical Secretariat, among others. This institutional workshop was opened by Ms. Loida Pretiz, Vice-Minister of Culture, Ms. Sofía Cortés Mesén, advisor to the Vice-Ministry of Water and Seas, and Mr. Julio Carranza Valdés, Director a.i. of the UNESCO Office in San José.

These events were preceded by a working meeting convened by the vice-presidential initiative Mesa Caribe, which aims to promote the economic revitalisation of the Atlantic region of Costa Rica, and by UNESCO. This meeting allowed for the strengthening of the inter-institutional alliances necessary to regulate research, protection, and sustainable use of underwater cultural heritage according to the guidelines of the 2001 Convention.

The 2001 Convention establishes basic principles and internationally recognised practices for the treatment and investigation of archaeological remains wholly or partially submerged under water. This heritage is not only a testimony to the history of peoples and the construction of their identities: it is also an essential resource for the design of policies and opportunities for economic growth, as well as for achieving the Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

You can watch the recording of the community workshop here

You can watch the recording of the institutional workshop here