UNESCO prepares for the commemoration of the Centenary of one of the most tragic and devastating events in history, World War I (1914 - 1918).
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, founded after World War II, works for the achievement of peace as a priority. It will remember World War I with a series of events calling for reconciliation and peace.
Many of these events will focus on underwater cultural heritage, due to the fact that during World War I, thousands of ships sank in naval battles, resulting in the loss of millions of lives. The expansive amount of submerged heritage resulting from the war will fall within the scope of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage beginning in 2014, 100 years from the time of sinking.
Until recently, not much has been known about such submerged heritage, as it was not greatly researched historically. However it is seriously endangered by pillaging, treasure hunting, and the recovering of scrap metal. Due to this fact, important sites like the Lusitania, the sinking of which resulted in the loss of 1195 lives and triggered the United States’ entrance into World War I, have been subject to considerable destruction well after sinking. UNESCO will therefore call on political leaders, the world audience and the scientific community to pay increased attention to submerged heritage and its message for peace.
The first major event to observe the Centenary will be a special scientific conference and commemorative event on underwater cultural heritage from World War I. The event will include a two-day scientific conference and commemorative day organized by UNESCO and the Government of Flanders from 26 to 28 June 2014 in Bruges, Belgium.
More commemorative events, conferences, and educational activities will follow worldwide. The Director-General of UNESCO has invited the UNESCO Member States to support the commemorations, which were initiated by a resolution of the Meeting of States Parties to the 2001 Convention.
World War I resulted in immense human losses, the devastation of entire regions and deep social changes. It was perceived as the end of an era of stability. The trauma it caused generated not only nationalist movements but also movements for a pacifist world. The League of Nations, predecessor of the United Nations, and therewith also UNESCO, was founded as a result. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace.
Dr. Ulrike Guérin
Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001)
7, place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris, France
Tel: + 33 1 45 68 44 06