UNESCO, as the United Nations Organization in charge of culture, ensures the safeguarding and transmission of intangible cultural heritage, represented by traditional knowledge, arts and skills. During a meeting in Rabat, from 28 November to 3 December, the organisation’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage inscribed 47 elements submitted by 60 countries on the Intangible Cultural Heritage lists.
In 2003, UNESCO created a dedicated instrument: the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, ratified by 180 States, which has already allowed for the inscription of more than 600 elements throughout the world.
1. New inscriptions
The 17th session of the intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of this heritage, chaired by the Kingdom of Morocco, led to the inscription by States sitting on the Committee of 47 elements including: four on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, 39 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and four on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.
This living heritage plays an essential role in bringing people together and making peace grow in the minds of men.Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General
“Congratulation to the States that have put forward these proposals, the members of the Committee for the quality of their debates, Morocco for hosting them and the 180 States that bring this UNESCO Convention to life. This living heritage plays an essential role in bringing people together and making peace grow in the minds of men”, said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General.
One third of the elements inscribed this year relate to nature and the important challenge of safeguarding biodiversity. The international community is thus demonstrating its determination to make environmental protection a priority in all circumstances.
One third of the new inscriptions concern practices related to environmental protection. They often concern ancestral agricultural techniques that are mindful of the sustainable use of resources, as well as rituals and festive events that celebrate nature. “These elements are a reminder that ancestral knowledge can be crucial in meeting the new challenges of our age, such as climate change”, UNESCO emphasised.
2. Emergency assistance and one withdrawal from the list
The Committee also decided to grant $305,000 in financial assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to a safeguarding project submitted by Malawi. The objective of this three-year project, to be implemented by the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO, is to contribute to the safeguarding of the ludo diversity of Malawi through informal learning and transmission of nine traditional games within practicing communities.
The nine games were identified by practitioners in three regions of Malawi and included in an inventory of ludo diversity of Malawi in 2013, but the number of practitioners continues to decrease each year. The project thus aims to produce reference materials in the form of a guidebook and audio-visual documentaries with descriptions, rules and social functions for each of the nine traditional games.
In a unanimous decision, the Committee also withdrew the Ducasse d’Ath from the Processional Giants and Dragons in Belgium and France, an element inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.
The members of the Committee took this decision due to the presence in the Ducasse d’Ath procession of a chained black character called “le Sauvage”, a racist and discriminatory representation that stands in contradiction to the founding principles of UNESCO and to the requirement of mutual respect expressed in Article 2 of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention.