2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage – Our case for ratification
Britain’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. The wrecks of ships that sank outside the UK’s waters are being plundered by modern commercial treasure hunters and their important cultural heritage 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.
In March 2016, the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport published the Culture White Paper in which they have stated:
“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 forward in the UK ratifying the 2001 Convention and safeguarding our underwater cultural heritage.
The importance of our heritage and its relevance both to our society and to our economy is becoming increasingly recognised. Whether in our towns and cities or in rural landscapes, the character of places draws upon the past, stimulating interest and enjoyment amongst those who live there, and attracting visitors from both near and far.
This report – initiated by the former British Academy & Honor Frost Foundation Steering Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage – looks at the social and economic benefits of the UK’s marine and maritime cultural heritage.