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How to ratify the 2001 Convention?

Joining the Convention

In conformity with its Article 26 the Convention can be ratified, accepted or approved by all Member States of UNESCO.

The Convention is subject to accession:

  • by States that are not members of UNESCO but are members of the United Nations or of a specialized agency within the United Nations system or of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as by States Parties to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and any other State invited to accede to this Convention by the General Conference of UNESCO;
  • by territories which enjoy full internal self-government, recognized as such by the United Nations, but have not attained full independence in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and which have competence over the matters governed by this Convention, including the competence to enter into treaties in respect of those matters.

The original of the written signed instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession must be deposited with the Director-General of UNESCO to take legal effect.

The Convention entered into force on 2 January 2009 with respect to the twenty States that deposited their instruments prior to 02 October 2008. It enters into force for each other State or territory three months after the date on which that State or territory has deposited its instrument.

Guideline for Ratification EN | FR

Model Instrument of Ratification

Depository letters

Advantages of ratification

Declarations, Communications and Reservations

The Convention contains regulations on three declarations, one possible reservation and one communication to be made. Declarations and communications already made can be consulted here. 


A declaration is a unilateral statement made by a State when joining the Convention whereby it gives a view on its interpretation of certain provisions, makes choices requested or gives necessary information.

Article 9.2, Article 25.5, and Article 28 of the Convention contain express provisions regarding three declarations. While the first is mandatory, the second and third are optional.

  1. Article 9 of the Convention concerns reporting and notification in the EEZ or and on the continental shelf. According to paragraph 1 (b) of this Article, States Parties require that when their nationals or a vessels flying their flag, discover or intend to engage in activities directed at underwater cultural heritage located in the EEZ or on the continental shelf of another State Party they have to send a report. The State Party of their origin has to make a choice, where their report should be sent to. One alternative is that it should be sent to the home State Party and the concerned coastal State Party, another alternative is that it should be sent only to the home State Party, which will than transmit this information to all other States Parties. To ensure continuity and previsibility, each State Party has to fix the alternative chosen via the declaration requested by Article 9.2 of the Convention.
  2. Article 25 of the Convention concerns the peaceful settlement of disputes. If mediation is not undertaken or if there is no settlement by mediation, the provisions relating to the settlement of disputes set out in Part XV of UNCLOS apply mutatis mutandis to any dispute between States Parties to the Convention, whether or not they are also Parties to UNCLOS. Any procedure chosen by a State Party to the Convention and to UNCLOS pursuant to Article 287 of the latter (to be consulted on the website of DOALOS) shall apply to the settlement of disputes under Article 25 of the Convention, unless that State Party, when joining the Convention, or at any time thereafter, chooses another procedure pursuant to Article 287 of UNCLOS for the purpose of the settlement of disputes arising out of the Convention.
  3. A State Party to the Convention which is not a Party to the UNLCOS, when joining the Convention or at any time thereafter may choose, by means of a written declaration, one or more of the means set out in Article 287, paragraph 1, of UNCLOS for the purpose of settlement of disputes.
  4. Article 28 of the Convention concerns the application of the Annex of the Convention to inland waters. Inland waters means, in contrast to ‘internal waters’ of maritime character (see Article 7 of the Convention), waters not of a maritime character, for instance lakes and rivers. States may declare that the Rules will be applicable to them.
  5. States or territories must make their declarations when ratifying the Convention or any time thereafter, as applicable, by submitting the original signed declaration to the Director-General of UNESCO.


  1. States Parties have to communicate to the Director-General the names and addresses of their competent authorities relating to underwater cultural heritage, so that copies of reports received, all official correspondence and all further documents can be sent by the Secretariat to these national focal points, as appropriate, and so that other States Parties and their institutions can consult and cooperate through these focal points with the other States. A list of the addresses received is available at the UNESCO Web site. 
  2. Such communication may be made at any time, but should be made as soon as possible, to ensure a timely implementation of the Convention. It should be updated as soon as any change in the information on the responsible competent authority occurs.  


  1. No reservations may be made to the Convention, except in the following case: a State or territory, at the time of ratifying the Convention, can limit the geographical scope of the application of the Convention by making a declaration to the Director-General that the Convention shall not be applicable to specific parts of its territory, internal waters, archipelagic waters or its territorial sea. If such a reservation is made, it must be done in writing and the reasons for such declaration need to be identified and communicated to the Director-General.
  2. The withdrawal of a reservation must be made in writing. A reservation that is made by a State ratifying the Convention should be made in the instrument of ratification.
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