MAKASSAR, 28 September 2017 – The history and development of Southeast Asia are intimately linked to the sea. The region possesses a rich underwater cultural and natural heritage which reflects its identity and should be protected for future generations. However, this heritage is threatened mainly by pillage and commercial exploitation. To address this issue, ASEAN and UNESCO held a conference on the protection of underwater cultural heritage on 19-20 September in Makassar, Indonesia. It gathered specialists in underwater heritage from ASEAN and Timor-Leste.

Heritage managers participating in the conference recognised the need to protect the cultural sites found in Southeast Asia’s waters. International experts brought their knowledge on the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, as well as on the maritime history of Southeast Asia, the interplay of natural and cultural heritage, and legal and practical aspects of underwater cultural heritage protection.

The participants shared their experiences and the challenges they face in protecting the underwater cultural heritage and agreed on ways forward to protect it at national and regional levels, including education, standard setting, sustainably-managed heritage access, and protection.

The conference was co-organised by the ASEAN Secretariat, UNESCO Jakarta Office, and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia. It was supported by the Government of Makassar, Sulawesi Province.