UNESCO Focuses on Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

UNESCO, Press Release

(UNESCO- July 28th, 2014)- Former Director of Fisheries on Nevis and active marine conservationist, Emile Lemuel Pemberton, represented the Federation at a Steering committee Meeting on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage held July 14-18 in Nassau Bahamas. The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) led meeting brought together a cadre of specialists and stakeholders including Government officials, Directors of Culture, historians and archaeologists from Latin America and the Caribbean.

International Experts were also among participants who addressed issues regarding the protection and research of underwater or submerged heritage. The Steering Committee members also shared experiences with regard to the implementation of the 2001 Convention, and evaluated its potentials for development, education and tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Underwater Cultural Heritage is defined by UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage as ‘encompassing all traces of human existence that lie or once lay under water for at least 100 years and have a cultural or historical character.”

Pemberton, sharing on the outcome of the Steering Committee meeting reported that “the wealth of ideas and intensive discussions led to recommendations for policy formulation to protect underwater cultural heritage sites in the region as follows:

• work on the ratification and implementation of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage and the harmonization of legislation within
• the Caribbean and Latin America;
• urge policy makers to apply the exportation certificate included in the UNESCO Model Law;
• establish a regional atlas containing publicly accessible data base of underwater Cultural Heritage sites in the región;
• establish a network of inter island and inter-regional contacts and competent authorities as well as database on skills and facilities in the región;
• seek to organize a regional training on law enforcement and site protection to implement the 2001 Convention’s regulations.”

“The Federation’s involvement in UNESCO’s drive to protect underwater cultural heritage will raise the profile of underwater heritage in St. Kitts and Nevis, for educational value and tourism development, especially dive tourism. This calls for steps to be taken to protect currently known sites and carry out excavation and archaeological research in order to identify other underwater heritage assets and create an inventory of submerged heritage sites in St. Kitts and Nevis.” Pemberton stated. “The sunken Christena vessel, will one day soon become an official underwater cultural heritage site” Pemberton pointed out, “and now is the time to start taking action to protect the wreck from further deterioration.”

In support of the drive to focus attention to the Federation’s underwater cultural heritage, Antonio Maynard, Secretary General of the St. Kitts/Nevis UNESCO secretariat, remarked that “he is encouraging our competent national authorities to review and analyse and up date respective State’s existing national laws protecting the cultural heritage, with a view to adopting the elaborated model law, as amended as appropriate for St.Kitts and Nevis.” He expressed confident that Mr. Pemberton has the expertise to help lead the Federation to preserve and promote its submerged heritage sites.

Other participating countries at the meeting were Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Lucia from Latin America and the Caribbean amongst representatives from UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters and field Office in Kingston. International experts came from France, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom and the USA.

The meeting was a follow-up to the Sub-Regional Work shop on the Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection Laws for the Caribbean Small Island States, held in St. Kitts in 2012 and a more recent meeting held in Peru in October 2013.

UNESCO Secretariat – St. Kitts/Nevis July 25, 2014

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