UNESCO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Sports and Heritage of Kenya, the National Commissions for UNESCO, and the National Museums of Kenya, is convening a Regional Ministerial Conference and Technical meeting on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage for sustainable tourism development in Eastern Africa and the adjacent Indian Ocean Islands, in Malindi, Kenya, on 11-12 March 2019.
The richness of the world’s underwater cultural heritage is often underestimated. While, over the last century, archaeological sites on land have yielded an abundance of information on the development of civilizations, the oceans, which cover the larger part of our planet, still retain many of their secrets. However, they contain a unique testament to the spirit of our ancestors for exploration; and many shipwrecks and ruins of cities lost to the waves are much better preserved than similar sites found on land. Nonetheless, looting of underwater cultural heritage and the destruction of its context are increasing rapidly and threaten to deprive humanity of this heritage. The waves have protected shipwrecks and ruins for centuries, but improvements in diving technology have made them more accessible and therefore increasingly vulnerable.
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2001, intends to enable States to better protect their underwater heritage. Currently, 61 UNESCO Member States are State parties to the UNESCO Convention. Only 1 country in the Eastern Africa region (Madagascar) has ratified the UNESCO 2001 Convention, yet 9 of the 13 countries covered by the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa border the Indian Ocean and have known shipwrecks along their coasts, representing possible in situ or museum collections of underwater cultural heritage.
The Regional conference aims to mobilize ministers responsible for culture in the Eastern Africa region during a regional ministerial conference to increase awareness and interest in ratifying the 2001 convention; to promote the establishment of national safeguarding measures; to strengthen synergies for the protection of underwater cultural heritage in the region; and to increase awareness of the potential to use cultural heritage protection and promotion for sustainable tourism development.
Following the ministerial meeting, a technical meeting will bring together regional experts and stakeholders to increase capacities and awareness for protecting underwater cultural heritage.
Expected participants are 50-70, comprising of ministers responsible for Culture, Ministry departments heads responsible for culture and or tourism, UNESCO National Commissions, Museum Directors, underwater archaeologists and cultural heritage professions, universities of the UNESCO UNITWIN Underwater Archaeology Network, scientific and technical advisory body to the 2001 Convention, ICOMOS International Council for Underwater Cultural Heritage, African Union and Regional Economic communities representatives.
Ms. Karalyn Monteil, Regional Advisor for Culture, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, k.monteil(at)unesco.org
Dates: 11 to 12 March 2019
Venue: Ocean Beach Resort, Malindi – Kenya
Ministerial Conference: 11 March 2019
Technical Workshop: 12 March 2019
Press Conference: 11 March 2019, 1pm at Ocean Beach Resort, Malindi- Kenya
Photo Gallery: UNESCO Underwater Cultural Heritage