The Alecso Meeting results

The conference that was organized by The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (Alecso) in Mahdia, Tunisia from the 28th to the 30th of October 2013. The Alecso which works within the Arab League, is mainly concerned with enhancing and coordinating cultural and educational activities in the Arab world including cultural heritage issues. This was the 21st round of the conference which is held every two years. This year's topic was "Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region".

In fact, it is the first time that Arab countries dedicate an international conference to discuss various topics related to UCH. The conference was attended by delegations of 16 Arab countries as well as a number of international experts.

Topics that were discussed included: the current situation of UCH in different Arab counties, museums and public presentation, education and training, international collaboration, site protection and preservation and the UNESCO convention.

A number of recommendation resulted from the conference in which will be ratified during the upcoming meeting of the Arab League Ministers of Culture so it will be an obligation to see the recommendation through to achievement.

The recommendations included:
- The creation of a Regional Centre for UCH in Mahdia, Tunisia sponsored by the Tunisian government, to be used for education and training and joint projects in the region. A committee was created under led by myself to write the proposal for creating the centre.
- Urging Arab countries to ratify the UNESCO 2001 convention (only 6 countries have done so far)
- To include UCH as a topic in higher education program in Arab universities and institutes.
- The preservation of UCH shall be an integral component in coastal urban development plans in the Arab world.
- A collaborative program will be created between the Alexandria Centre for Maritime Archeology and the ICCROM regional centre in Sharja, which is developing a Heritage Management Diploma.
- Urging Arab institutions and societies working in the field of underwater cultural heritage to implement joint projects and promote awareness
- The Alecso has created a website for the conference (in Arabic) where all the information and resolutions are posted http://www.arabheritagecongress.org/

Also there seems to be an increasing interest in education and training in maritime and underwater archaeology in Arab countries.