Underwater archaeology made significant advances in Croatia at the dawn of the 21st century with a quality system of archaeological surveying, investigation and protection of underwater archaeological sites and finds. The International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar opened its doors in September of 2007 as part of the Croatian Conservation Institute. In January of 2009 ICUA became a separate legal entity – that year also saw the signing of an international agreement between UNESCO and Croatia covering the scope of ICUA activity. Since then, operating as the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology in Zadar and under the administration of the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media and UNESCO, ICUA has developed its programme activities. 2016 saw the renewal of the international agreement between Croatia and UNESCO for the coming six-year period. The decision to found ICUA was grounded largely on the fact that Croatia was among the first countries to ratify the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. UNESCO accepted the Croatian initiative to declare ICUA Zadar a category II international centre under its auspices. During 2021, an evaluation of ICUA Zadar was carried out and with the positive opinion of the evaluation team, it was recommended to extend the status of UNESCO II category Center for a further 8 years, until 2031.
ICUA's core tasks are to conduct activities and education in the fields of research, conservation and restoration and the promotion of underwater cultural heritage, in particular at the international level. Through its activity ICUA is also a strong proponent of the ratification and implementation of UNESCO's 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. ICUA works in accordance with the principles laid out in the Convention and its annex and contributes to expanding opportunities in other European and Mediterranean countries. Through its work in developing and disseminating the latest methods of investigation in underwater archaeology, conservation and restoration, training and the exchange of knowledge, ICUA Zadar has become an important focal point for these activities in this part of Europe. ICUA has a significant regional dimension in its work, with an emphasis on the countries of central and southeast Europe and the broader Mediterranean region. Given the nature of archaeological finds and sites, we foresee more intensive collaboration with countries across all of Europe.
The Republic of Croatia provides essential funding for ICUA core costs, while funding required for the implementation of individual programmes are secured from a diverse range of sources, depending on the programme or project in question. Funding for international programmes and projects is provided by international sources.