Côte d’Ivoire: Workshop on underwater cultural heritage raises awareness about the latest conservation techniques
Culture professionals and archaeologists met on 22 and 23 March 2023 in Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, at the invitation of UNESCO. As underwater and coastal heritage faces the increased threat of industrial activity, climate change and treasure hunting, the participants gathered from across the country considered how UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage may benefit Côte d’Ivoire, if ratified. The Convention is currently ratified by 72 State Parties.
Discussions during the two-day meeting focused on legal and regulatory frameworks, conservation and management practices, public awareness and education, and capacity building. Other key issues included identification, documentation and assessment of underwater and coastal cultural heritage.
Africa has rich underwater and coastal cultural heritage including ancient wharfs, shipwrecks, submerged ports and dwellings as well as prehistoric sites. Over the years, UNESCO has organized a dozen regional and national meetings across the continent to raise awareness about such heritage and the instrumental role of the UNESCO Convention in its safeguarding. Major trainings have also been conducted to empower the countries to survey and protect this heritage.
The workshop in Côte d’Ivoire also provided participants with information on the use of advanced technologies and techniques such as remote sensing and geophysical survey methods, digital imaging, and Marine Spatial Planning. Collaboration and inter-sectorial work with the wider field of ocean sciences was strongly encouraged.
UNESCO is currently working towards the establishment of a center of excellence in Mozambique dedicated to the training of underwater archaeologists, the conservation of objects extracted from the seabed, the education of local communities, and the development of sustainable tourism. The initiative is in line with the UN Ocean Decade (2021-2030), the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water), as well as the ongoing series of UN Ocean Conferences.