UNESCO Meeting Produces Model for National Act to Protect Underwater Cultural Heritage

NATCOM (SKN) – Basseterre: July 3, 2013: A significant step towards protecting items of Cultural Heritage was achieved in St. Kitts on June 25-27 when a model for a National Act on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage was produced at a UNESCO Sub-Regional Workshop for Caribbean Small Island States.

Representatives from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, St Maarten and St. Kitts/Nevis described the meeting held at the Ocean Terrace Inn in St. Kitts as a very insightful and productive activity which had been long in coming and very necessary.

Secretary General for The National Commission for UNESCO Mr. Antonio Maynard said while it was easier to garner an appreciation and support for items of heritage that are visible on the land, it was a bit more challenging to make it a priority to protect those items found under water in ship wrecks and the like. As such, he said this meeting was a major milestone in protecting the region’s heritage by considering laws that need to be put in place to safeguard against the pirating and destruction of such items.

The document noted, “The Model National Act is an example of a comprehensive law on the protection of cultural heritage encompassing land-based as well as submerged immovable heritage as well as moveable objects”.

Workshop participants considered existing national cultural heritage laws as well as UNESCO’s model heritage legislation drafted to protect cultural heritage generally but more specifically with a view to giving effect to the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

The meeting highlighted a need for awareness raising campaigns on the importance of protecting all cultural heritages including underwater cultural heritage.

Also considered a priority in moving the process forward were the need to encourage other States of the region to follow the example and to adopt legislation based on the model prepared; as well as to encourage all OECS and other Caribbean countries which have not yet done so, to ratify the associated 2001 Convention.

National Commissions for UNESCO are also being encouraged to begin the process of consultation at the National level to discuss the model cultural heritage protection law.

Sections of the model legislation include Discovery, Report and Displacement of Cultural Heritage; Underwater Cultural Heritage Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction;

Immediate Danger to Cultural Heritage; Activities Affecting Cultural Heritage; Ownership of Cultural Heritage as well as Control, Sanctions and Seizure as well.

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