Malindi to host underwater cultural heritage meeting for Africa

The United Nations Education ,Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage are organising a ministerial conference and technical meeting on the protection of underwater cultural heritage for sustainable  tourism development in Eastern Africa and the adjacent Indian Ocean islands in Malindi, Kilifi County.

The conference will be held from March 11-12, 2019 at the Ocean Beach Resort.

Also charged with the organisation of the meeting are the National Commission for UNESCO and the National Museums of Kenya.

A communique' by Unesco Regional Advisor for Culture, Ms Karalyn Monteil states that the richness of the world's underwater cultural heritage is often underestimated.

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While, over the last century, archaeological sites on land have yielded an abundance of information on the development of civilizations, the oceans, which cover the larger part of our planet, still retain many of their secrets.

However, they contain a unique testament to the spirit of our ancestors for exploration and many shipwrecks and ruins of cities lost to the waves are much better preserved than similar sites found on land.

Nonetheless, looting of underwater cultural heritage and the destruction of its context are increasing rapidly and threaten to deprive humanity of this heritage.

The waves have protected shipwrecks and ruins for centuries, but improvements in diving technology have made them more accessible and therefore increasingly vulnerable.

''The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2001, intends to enable States to better protect their underwater heritage. Currently, 61 UNESCO Member States are State parties to the UNESCO Convention,'' the UN agency stated.

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UNESCO states that only 1 country in the Eastern Africa region (Madagascar) has ratified the UNESCO 2001 Convention, yet 9 of the 13 countries covered by the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa border the Indian Ocean and have known shipwrecks along their coasts, representing possible in situ or museum collections of underwater cultural heritage.

The Regional conference aims to mobilize ministers responsible for culture in the Eastern Africa region during a regional ministerial conference to increase awareness and interest in ratifying the 2001 convention as well as to promote the establishment of national safeguarding measures.

It also aims to strengthen synergies for the protection of underwater cultural heritage in the region; and to increase awareness of the potential to use cultural heritage protection and promotion for sustainable tourism development.

Following the ministerial meeting, a technical meeting will bring together regional experts and stakeholders to increase capacities and awareness for protecting underwater cultural heritage.

A total of 70 delegates are expected to attend and they comprise of ministers responsible for Culture, Ministry departments heads responsible for culture and or tourism, UNESCO National Commissions, Museum Directors, underwater archaeologists and cultural heritage professions.

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Others are universities of the UNESCO UNITWIN Underwater Archaeology Network, scientific and technical advisory body to the 2001 Convention, ICOMOS International Council for Underwater Cultural Heritage, African Union and Regional Economic communities representatives.

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UnescoMinistry of SportsCultureTourism