The elaboration of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

Dublin Core


The elaboration of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage


The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2001. Like many such treaties, its text is the result of a compromise between opposing views. The negotiations leading to this instruments started in the Eighties at the initiative of underwater archaeologists who teamed up with lawyers and with the International Law Association. These pioneers considered that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) did not protect adequately the underwater cultural heritage. But many States Parties to the UNCLOS were reluctant to re-open any kind of negotiation that might affect the delicate balance of the UNCLOS. Moreover, the industry of salvage was also extremely reluctant to any new international legislation that may affect their activities, especially in the high seas. The process of preparation of an international legal instrument was suspended several times. It was finally put on tracks thanks to the pugnacity of a few UNESCO staff and ICOMOS members supported by Ministries of a Foreign Affairs of several countries wo convinced the UNESCO General Conference to enter the process of elaboration of a Convention. During the negotiation of the text, the views expressed by the delegations of UNESCO Member states were often antagonistic. In the discussions, the ICOMOS Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH) played a major role, by sensitizing the diplomats to the urgency of adopting a legal instrument at a time when technology had made possible to explore practically all ancient vessels lying on the seabed. The author has participated in some key steps of the elaboration of the Convention and will present some of the legal and ethical positions expressed at the negotiations and that have led to the compromise adopted in 2001.


Etienne Clément


The Museum of Underwater Archaeology




Etienne Clément




Fatal error: Uncaught ValueError: version_compare(): Argument #3 ($operator) must be a valid comparison operator in /home/kknoerl/ Stack trace: #0 /home/kknoerl/ version_compare('8.0.22', '5.6', 'gte') #1 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::isPhpFpm() #2 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scan('<?xml version="...', NULL) #3 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Xml_Security::scanFile('/home/kknoerl/t...') #4 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_findRoute('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern', Array) #5 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::_getFile('en_US', '/ldml/dates/cal...', '', 'pattern') #6 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Locale_Data::getContent('en_US', 'date', Array) #7 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_parseIsoToDate('FFFF', 'en_US') #8 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->_toToken('FFFF', 'en_US') #9 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Date->toString('FFFF') #10 /home/kknoerl/ format_date(1679732645, 'FFFF') #11 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getCitation() #12 /home/kknoerl/ Item->getProperty('citation') #13 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getRecordMetadata(Object(Item), 'citation') #14 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->_getText(Object(Item), 'citation') #15 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View_Helper_Metadata->metadata(Object(Item), 'citation', Array) #16 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->__call('metadata', Array) #17 /home/kknoerl/ metadata('item', 'citation', Array) #18 /home/kknoerl/ include('/home/kknoerl/t...') #19 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_View->_run('/home/kknoerl/t...') #20 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_View_Abstract->render(NULL) #21 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->renderScript('items/show.php', NULL) #22 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->render() #23 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_Helper_ViewRenderer->postDispatch() #24 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action_HelperBroker->notifyPostDispatch() #25 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Action->dispatch('showAction') #26 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Dispatcher_Standard->dispatch(Object(Zend_Controller_Request_Http), Object(Zend_Controller_Response_Http)) #27 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Controller_Front->dispatch() #28 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application_Bootstrap_Bootstrap->run() #29 /home/kknoerl/ Zend_Application->run() #30 /home/kknoerl/ Omeka_Application->run() #31 {main} thrown in /home/kknoerl/ on line 172