The UNESCO Convention

The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage describes intangible cultural heritage as the source of cultural diversity and as a guarantee for sustainable development. Intangible cultural heritage strengthens the sense of identity and continuity for communities, groups and individuals and promotes the respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

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UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

 

The UNESCO Convention defines intangible cultural heritage as the cultural customs, traditions, stories, craft skills as well as the instruments, objects and cultural areas associated with these that people inherited from their parents or caretakers and which they internalised and, in turn, wish to pass on to others. The convention describes intangible cultural heritage as the source of cultural diversity and as a guarantee for sustainable development. Intangible cultural heritage strengthens the sense of identity and continuity for communities, groups and individuals and promotes the respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.

 

In the convention text the following ICH domains are mentioned:

  1. oral traditions
  2. performing arts
  3. social practices, rituals and festive events
  4. knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe
  5. traditional crafts

See the page of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage here.

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Safeguarding

 

The convention concerns the protection of intangible cultural heritage. During the run-up to the convention there was much discussion about this protection. The word protection is not used in the convention text, like in the World Heritage Convention, but it says safeguarding. Safeguarding means something else than the traditional ‘maintenance’. It is protection in the sense of ‘keeping alive’ for ICH, including activities as identification, inventorying, documenting, visualising, awareness and education.

Safeguarding, or securing ICH implies that first and foremost the most favourable possible conditions for culture transmission are ensured. One takes care of the preconditions under which a certain form of ICH can thrive. Measures can also be taken in the context of education, for instance in the transmission of technical skills, like playing a certain musical instrument.

Safeguarding or securing is mainly creation of prerequisites: creating circumstances under which the cherished ICH can flourish.

 

Intangible cultural heritage community

 

This UNESCO Convention has assigned a central role to the people who practice a form of ICH or are closely involved in it. Only they can keep this intangible cultural heritage alive and up-to-date and pass their love, knowledge and skills on to next generations. The community can submit its intangible cultural heritage for entering the Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage. In an ICH community it will be a group, or groups of people, and sometimes even an individual, who organise themselves for a shorter or longer period around a certain form of ICH and wish to actively contribute to it.

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