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Sub-regional Meeting on "Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection Laws for the Caribbean Small Island States"



17 June 2013 - The UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean and UNESCO Headquarters in collaboration with the St. Kitts and Nevis National Commission for UNESCO will organize a 3-day Sub-regional Meeting on ‘Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection Laws for the Caribbean Small Island States’ which will be held from 25-27 June 2013 in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The objective of this sub-regional meeting is to strengthen professional capacities for the effective implementation of the 2001 Convention through the drafting, harmonization and adaptation of national laws for the protection of underwater cultural heritage. The meeting will be facilitated by an expert at UNESCO’s Headquarters, Dr. Ulrike Guerin, as well as a reputed international legal expert from Australia, Professor Craig Forrest.

Underwater Cultural Heritage encompasses all traces of human existence that lie or were lying under water and have a cultural or historical character. Recognizing the urgent need to preserve and protect such heritage, UNESCO elaborated in 2001 the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. The 2001 Convention is UNESCO’s main tool to improve the legal and operational protection of underwater cultural heritage. It sets high protection and research standards and facilitates cooperation. 

While having a very rich submerged heritage, to date few countries in the Caribbean have laws protecting the this  heritage or even cultural heritage in general; and many are faced with the challenge of on-going pillaging or commercial exploitation attempts. At the same time the fundamental knowledge of the concept and mechanism of the 2001 Convention at the national levels is relatively low, even in countries that have already ratified the Convention. The Convention’s application will however be crucial to safeguard the submerged heritage present in the region.

Underwater cultural heritage holds a vast potential for the Caribbean States. It is valuable for scientific research and education. Historical shipwrecks provide vital information on past cultural interchanges, trade and mutual influences, while sunken dwellings and submerged cave sites reveal important data on local life, religious ceremonies and sacrifices. In addition submerged heritage offers however also very important opportunities for tourism development, recreation, urban development and cultural enrichment. 

The sub-regional meeting on Cultural Heritage Protection Laws for the Caribbean Small Island States will have participation from seven OECS States (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States), namely Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines along with associate member state, the British Virgin Islands.

Funding for the meeting is provided by UNESCO and the Government of Spain.


For more information about the meeting, please contact UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean at Tel: 876 630 5300 or e-mail to