The regional meeting was organised to help the Asia-Pacific countries accelerate ratification of the 2001 Convention, strengthen regional networks and produce a document presenting specific proposals and a pragmatic action plan for the implementation of the 2001 Convention.
During the meeting, UNESCO staff and international experts clarified the principles of the 2001 UNESCO Convention to promote an in-depth understanding of the 2001 Convention and to strengthen and ensure the effective protection of underwater cultural heritage and its preservation for future generations. The main principles of the Convention are: an obligation to preserve Underwater Cultural Heritage, in-situ preservation as a preferred option (but not the only option), no commercial exploitation and encourage training and information sharing. The background, the legal framework, practical issues and comparisons with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) were also introduced by the international experts. In addition, experts delivered PowerPoint presentations giving an overview of the 2001 Convention and its Annex, advantages of ratifying the 2001 Convention, the commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage in Asia, economic benefits of protecting underwater cultural heritage, and so forth.
A variety of topics related to UCH were also introduced by the international and national experts: Prof. Kenji Nemoto of Tokai University shared his latest discovery of the submerged Mongol shipwrecks within the Japanese territorial sea. Mr. Robert Leopold of the Smithsonian Institution explained a planned Belitung exhibition and a holistic UCH capacity building project for the Indonesian authorities for its long-term development of capacities in underwater archaeology. Mr. Hans van Tilburg from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration explained his ideas of commercial salvage and scientific research projects of UCH. Mr. Judi Wajhudin of the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture introduced the potential of the research projects at the ancient shipwrecks in the Strait of Malacca and around the island of Belitung.
The final session on 15 May was devoted to discussions among the 14 country representatives and the drawing up of a pragmatic action plan for how regional cooperation should be strengthened to protect the UCH in the region. The participants decided to focus their attentions on regional capacity building initiatives, awareness raising, structural strengthening and national database management for the effective management and protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage. The agreed recommendations outlined that common efforts should be made against the looting of Underwater Cultural Heritage sites, through training and awareness-raising activities. The participants agreed that awareness of the Convention and of the Underwater Cultural Heritage among national decision-makers should be built up, in particular between relevant ministries and government agencies, as appropriate. The produced action plan was endorsed by H. E. Him Chhem, the Cambodian Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, who attended a closing ceremony.