The UK’s maritime heritage extends across the world. The “2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage: The Case for UK Ratification” makes clear that this heritage should be a treasured legacy, but it now faces a range of threats. Concerted international action is necessary to safeguard the UK’s interests and to protect important cultural heritage from being lost.
The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, adopted in 2001, sets out basic principles, practical rules and a State cooperation system to protect the world’s underwater cultural heritage sites. At the time of adoption, the UK supported the principles of the Convention but did not ratify because of reservations about the text and fears that it would not attract universal support. These reservations are no longer the concern they might once have appeared.
In March 2016, the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published the Culture White Paper which included the following commitment:
“We will review our position on ratifying other international conventions designed to protect cultural heritage and property, including the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.”
This is an important step which we hope will lead to the UK ratifying the 2001 Convention and safeguarding our underwater cultural heritage.