Promoting UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention in West and Central AfricaA two-day regional seminar to promote UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage opens today in Dakar(1) (Senegal). The meeting, which covers West and Central Africa, is the first of eight regional meetings. The other seven will be held in different parts of the world by the end of 2005(2). Their purpose is to encourage States to ratify the Convention, which was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in October 2003.
Twenty-four States(3) are taking part in the Dakar meeting that should improve understanding of this important legal instrument developed to help safeguard oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events and traditional craftsmanship, as well as knowledge and practice concerning nature and the universe.
During the first session of the seminar, participants will examine the history and role of the 2003 Convention, the importance of recording and handing down the intangible cultural heritage in the African context, its impact on the safeguarding of cultural diversity and, thereby, on sustainable development. The second session will carry out a country-by-country examination of the state of conservation of intangible heritage in the region. The third session will look at the legal aspects of the Convention and consider its specificities and the case for, and modalities of, its ratification.
In March, Algeria was the first State to become a party to the Convention, which will come into force three months after having been ratified by 30 UNESCO Member States. Stressing the “invaluable role” of intangible cultural heritage as a “factor in bringing human beings closer together and ensuring exchange and understanding between them,” the Convention provides for, among other things, the drawing up of two lists: one representative of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, the other featuring the parts of that heritage requiring urgent safeguarding.
(1) At the Novotel Hotel
(2) West Africa, June 2004, Dakar (Senegal); Latin America and Cuba, June 2004, Paraty (Brazil); Asia September 2004, Delhi (India); Eastern and Southern Africa, November 2004, Nairobi (Kenya); Europe and North America, December 2004 (venue to be confirmed); Arab States, January 2005, Algiers (Algeria); the Caribbean, February 2005, Dominica; the Pacific, first quarter of 2005, in Fiji.
(3) Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.