World Heritage

(c) Arturo Rey. Island of Mozambique, Mozambique.
World Heritage site with significant presence of underwater cultural heritage

The ICOMOS-ICUCH Working Group on Underwater Cultural Heritage and World Heritage was established in 2021 in response to a need to advocate for the inclusion of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) within the World Heritage Convention processes, as well as to improve UCH management and preservation.

As the World Heritage Committee and the different World Heritage regional strategies and action plans identified, a more varied and representative World Heritage list is needed. The World Heritage Committee has also identified the need to build up synergies between the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and the 1972 Convention on the Protection of World Natural and Cultural Heritage in certain cases where the World Heritage sites -of Member States signatories to both conventions- contain submerged archaeological remains.

Scope and Main Action Lines

The main areas of focus of the Working Group look into the issues related to UCH within World Heritage processes (i.e., nomination files, State of Conservation Reports, or Periodic Reporting), Management Plans, risk and impact assessments, synergies between the UNESCO 2001 Convention and the World Heritage Convention, as well as working towards building capacities, policy advocacy and awareness raising.

Identifying the main venues for discussion, governance, regional strategies and capacity building initiatives within the World Heritage Convention and Advisory Bodies, the Working Group works to insert the importance of UCH for the Outstanding Universal Value of the sites inscribed or nominated, as well as draw attention to the main challenges UCH management and protection are facing.

The Working Group work is framed under the following 4 main action lines:

1. Following up and monitoring the decisions of the World Heritage Committee regarding UCH and sites where UCH should be taken into consideration within the inscription files and management plans.

2. Evaluating, in each region, the World Heritage Sites and World Heritage Tentative Lists that incorporate, or should incorporate, UCH within the inscription files and management plans. The ICUCH Working Group provides advice for cultural heritage sites being included into already inscribed World Heritage sites or propose amendments to properties in order to include UCH.

3. Providing policy and heritage practice guidelines to UNESCO, World Heritage Advisory Bodies, in particular ICOMOS, Member States and Heritage practitioners on the incorporation of UCH within World Heritage Processes (Tentative Lists, Inscription Files, Risk Assessments, State of Conservation reports, Periodic Reporting, etc) as well as within Worlds Heritage Management Plans, advocating for ecosystem-based and community-centred approaches that break the divide between land and sea, and between culture, people and nature.

4. Raising Awareness and Education, enhancing the importance of UCH within the sphere of World Heritage sites and their management.

For more information, please contact Dr Arturo Rey da Silva ( and Dr Jonathan Sharfman (