Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage enters into forceThe Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, adopted in October 2003 by UNESCO’s General Conference, enters into force today, three months after the 30th instrument of ratification was deposited. A total of 47 Member States have ratified the Convention to date: 16 in Europe, nine in Asia, nine in Africa, seven in Latin America and six of the Arab States.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, welcomed the exceptionally rapid entry into force of this new legal instrument. “The entry into force of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage; just 30 months after its adoption by the General Conference, bears witness to the interest born by Member States for the protection of cultural diversity and human creativity. Contemporary lifestyles and the process of globalization are undermining considerably the living cultures inherited through tradition. By offering them adequate means for their preservation, this instrument fills a legal loophole.”
UNESCO’s new standard-setting text on intangible heritage can be compared to the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage which covers tangible heritage. It aims to safeguard oral traditions and expressions (including language as a vehicle of the intangible heritage), performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, as well as know-how linked to traditional crafts. The Convention stresses that intangible cultural heritage is transmitted from generation to generation, and at the same time is constantly being recreated by communities and groups whose sense of identity and continuity it reinforces.
Mindful of the need for urgent action and alongside the development of the Convention, UNESCO has proclaimed 90 Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage since 2001. This international distinction is destined to raise public awareness of the value of intangible heritage and encourage the adoption of action plans for its safeguarding. The Convention stipulates that the Masterpieces be included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity created within the framework of the Convention. The latter also foresees the creation of a Fund for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will be financed by contributions from States Parties and other sources.
The first General Assembly of States Parties of the Convention will be convened from the 27th to the 29th of June. The 45 States where the Convention will have entered into force by that date, i.e. three months after they have deposited the instruments of acceptance of the Convention with UNESCO, will take part in the election of the 18 members of the first Intergovernmental Committee which is due to meet in September. The Committee’s membership will be extended to 24 when the Convention will number 50 States Parties. An extraordinary meeting of the States Parties may be convened in early September to elect the six additional members of the Committee, in the likely event that the number of States Parties will have reached 50 by then.
Algeria, Japan and China have already declared their interest in hosting the meetings of the Intergovernmental Committee, which will be mandated to prepare the operational directive of the implementation of the Convention. Once the Assembly of the States Parties have adopted the directives, the Convention will become fully operational.