A challenge for the present and the future: Preserving the Underwater Cultural Heritage. A Talk by Etienne Clément



The underwater cultural heritage is represented by ancient shipwrecks, submerged archaeological sites and other remains of cultural significance, under the seas and in internal waters (lakes and rivers). Technology is making this underwater heritage freely accessible not only to underwater archaeologists - to enrich our knowledge of ancient human activity – but also to looters and “treasure hunters”. Excavations with purely commercial motives, with or without permits from national authorities, continue to undermine our ability to collect essential information for the advancement of knowledge of the history of humanity. There is an urgent need to deploy coordinated efforts to protect this heritage and UNESCO has taken the lead in persuading Member States to adopt the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, a Convention ensuing from a compromise between the opposing views of archaeologists and the salvage industry. Mr. Etienne Clément has participated in key steps in the development of the Convention and will present some of the legal and ethical positions expressed at the negotiations, which have led to the compromise adopted in 2001. He will also inform the audience on latest developments in Asia and the Pacific, including the 3rd Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Heritage (APCONF 2017) held in Hong Kong in November-December 2017.

Etienne Clément, JD 1978, LLM International Law 1980, (University of Brussels) was a UNESCO staff member from 1984 to 2015. He contributed to the development of international legal norms for the protection of cultural heritage, including the development of UNESCO 2001 Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention. Starting in 1998, he was UNESCO Representative to Cambodia, then Deputy Director Field operations (UNESCO HQ, Paris) and finally Deputy Director Regional Asia Pacific Bureau (Bangkok) and Director of Pacific States. He is the author of numerous journal articles on cultural heritage conventions and advises governments on these instruments. Aj. Etienne lectures at Science Po Lille (France) and is a member of ICOMOS International Committee on Legal, Administrative and Financial Issues (ICLAFI). He is now a resident of Bangkok.

Date: Thursday, 5 April 2018
Time: 7.30 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2017-2018 Lecture Series.