The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, often referred to as the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention, is an international treaty adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2003. Its main purpose is to recognize, safeguard, and promote the importance of intangible cultural heritage worldwide.
Intangible cultural heritage refers to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills, and rituals that communities, groups, and individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge systems, and traditional craftsmanship, among others.
The Convention aims to ensure respect for the intangible cultural heritage of different communities, as well as raising awareness about its significance and encouraging its transmission to future generations. It also seeks to promote international cooperation and solidarity in safeguarding this heritage.
Key provisions and principles of the Convention include:
- Identification and inventory: States parties are encouraged to identify and inventory their intangible cultural heritage and establish mechanisms to ensure its safeguarding.
- Safeguarding measures: States parties are responsible for implementing safeguarding measures that respect the specific nature of intangible cultural heritage and the rights of the communities involved. These measures can include documentation, research, preservation, promotion, and transmission of the heritage.
- Community participation: The active involvement of communities, groups, and individuals in the identification, safeguarding, and transmission of their intangible cultural heritage is crucial. Their free, prior, and informed consent is sought for any actions that may affect their heritage.
- International cooperation: States parties are encouraged to cooperate at the international level, exchanging information, experiences, and expertise in the field of intangible cultural heritage. UNESCO plays a key role in facilitating this cooperation.
- Awareness-raising and education: Promoting awareness and understanding of intangible cultural heritage is an important aspect of the Convention. Education and public information programs are encouraged to foster appreciation and respect for this heritage.
- Assistance and support: States parties can request technical assistance and financial support from UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to implement safeguarding measures.
The Convention has been widely ratified by UNESCO member states, and as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, it had over 180 states parties. Its implementation has led to increased recognition and visibility of intangible cultural heritage worldwide, promoting cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue.