Periodic reporting on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Convention provides in Article 29 that States Parties shall submit to the Committee reports on the legislative, regulatory and other measures taken for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in their territories. Current page presents the periodic reports and deadlines of a country: Panama (see overview on all States Parties).

Periodic reporting on the implementation of the Convention allows States Parties to assess their implementation of the Convention, evaluate their capacities for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, report on their inventories of intangible cultural heritage and update the status of elements inscribed on the Representative List.

On the implementation of the Convention

Each State Party submits its periodic report to the Committee by 15 December of the sixth year following the year in which it deposited its instrument of ratification.

Report submitted on 15/12/2020 and examined by the Committee in 2021


soon available

Report submitted on 15/12/2016 and examined by the Committee in 2017


Having ratified the 2003 Convention in 2004, the current report is the second one submitted by Panama on its implementation at the national level. Since 2011, the implementing body for the 2003 Convention has been the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI), operating through Investment Projects and the general fund of the Ministry. During 2015, the investment project was developed with the general fund of the MICI and a new one was proposed for the 2016-2019 cycle. Various directorates and offices of MICI have objectives and programmes oriented towards safeguarding and promoting intangible cultural heritage, such as the General Directorate of Industrial Property Registry (trademarks, collective rights and genetic resources), the General Directorate of Handicrafts and the National Institute of Culture. In cooperation with institutions and universities, there is a plan to create a council for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguard Project of Panama (DIGERPI- MICI) also includes technical staff in various disciplines relevant to intangible cultural heritage safeguarding and undertakes administrative coordination, content collection, organizing a database, research, design, photography and audiovisual production.
There is no specific institution for training in the management of intangible cultural heritage, although universities can play a significant role in this. Seminars for students and teachers (University of Panama) and other advanced courses, some of which are evaluated and approved at the Specialized University of the Americas (UDELAS), are provided. Training has been received from the UNESCO Office in Costa Rica for the National Institute of Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Radio and Television State System and universities and authorities of the seven ethnic groups, among others. During 2016, MICI provided training to indigenous communities through the Registry of Industrial Property Directorate (Collective Rights Office). The Ministry of Education (Center for Art and Culture) also participates in the training organized by the Safeguarding Project for Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Although there is no dedicated library nor any documentation centre for intangible cultural heritage, audiovisual records are currently being edited or published, and a database is under construction as part of the Safeguarding Project. These will be sent to the National Library and its library network throughout the country. Also, as part of the Investment Project, some spaces and areas will be built in different communities as intangible cultural heritage Centres that will hold documentation. The National Radio and Television System (SERTV) holds a video library, carries out programmes that include documentation and some of its staff have been trained by UNESCO. The University Experimental Film Group (GECU) of the University of Panama has also documented intangible cultural heritage.
From 2011 to 2016, an average of 4,000 persons were familiarized with photographing, recording and inventorying different domains of intangible cultural heritage, and there are 60 field registry staff in several regions and ethnic groups trained by Safeguarding Project Staff. More than a thousand entries were completed in 2016, for which thirty field researchers (temporary and part-time) were hired and trained after being proposed by the communities. Ten inventories have been developed by the Safeguarding Project according to regions, collective lands and provinces. Descriptive record files are classified by cultural expressions and domains that cover feasts and festivals as well as various knowledge areas. The inventory includes information related to the status of the element, in particular when it is in danger, as well as the resources available to assess its viability. Communities are generally keen to inventory an endangered element or to record the elders who bear the knowledge. The frequency for updating the inventories has not been yet established, but communities whose intangible cultural heritage has been inventoried are aware of this need. In 2016, the Project trained thirty secretaries and technicians in the Guna Yala Region to update their inventory which dated back 2011; another inventory made in 2013 will be updated in 2017. The communities are the cornerstone of the inventory process. In some cases, members of NGOs are included in research teams, such as: the INDICRI Foundation (and its ACAMPADOC), the Asociación Rescate de Danzas ‘Miguel Leguízamo’ and the Fundación Simón ‘Mon’ Mendieta. In addition, the General Directorate of Handicrafts maintains a registry of artisans in the country, also comprising information on the status of the handicraft practices by region.
A draft cultural law, promoted by the National Institute of Culture, is under preparation and consultations are being held concerning the regulation of Law 35, which ratifies the 2003 Convention. With regard to other safeguarding measures, a project for creating a research centre or institute for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is being developed as an MICI Investment Project. In 2016, the Safeguarding Project team set up partnerships with members of the Anthropology and History Association of Panama for their third congress, as well as possible training recruitment in those areas of the country not yet covered. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding Project sponsored and participated in the First National Congress of Congo Culture in the Colon Province (2016) and plans to organize an International Congress on intangible cultural heritage in October 2017. Regarding the dissemination of information, agreements have been proposed to the Ernesto J. Castillero National Library, the universities and State and private media to promote registered elements. Agreements concluded with Indigenous Congresses establish regulations for the utilization of the knowledge inventoried: in particular, sensitive ritual aspects are, in many cases, kept private and not subject to audiovisual recording; some are described, but not photographed or recorded.
Every year, the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA), through its Center for Art and Culture, organizes a National Competition of traditional songs and, since 2016, it has awarded a prize for educators for the investigation and promotion of intangible cultural heritage. Other awareness-raising actions include several television programmes related to intangible cultural heritage. During 2015 and 2016, the progress of the Safeguarding Project was widely disseminated in the media. Educators, journalists and tourism promoters also request access to videos made by the Safeguarding Project on various aspects of intangible cultural heritage and its safeguarding. With regard to formal educational programmes, some courses on intangible cultural heritage already exist at graduate and postgraduate levels though from a folklore perspective, and there is an intention to revise them in line with the spirit of UNESCO’s 2003 and 2005 Conventions. In terms of non-formal education in communities, the Safeguarding Project also conducted three training workshops (with national and international facilitators) on the 2003 Convention, more particularly addressing nominations, intellectual property issues, the identification of intangible cultural heritage and the assessment of its viability. Three hundred direct and indirect beneficiaries from different regions, eight indigenous congresses and seven provinces participated. In 2016, representatives from different national and international ethnic groups and high- and medium-level authorities in the education and cultural area were trained on the importance of intangible cultural heritage and the necessity of integrating it into educational plans and programmes. Four community-based inventory workshops for researchers of different regions were provided within their communities, as well as in Panama City.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, agreements were concluded between the Specialized University of Las Americas and the University of Panama to include exchange programmes, internships in intangible cultural heritage-related topics, as well as the establishment of postgraduate studies and participation of students in inventory field trips as part of their social service programmes.
Currently, Panama has no elements inscribed on the Representative List.

Report submitted on 15/12/2015 and examined by the Committee in 2016 (originally due by 15/12/2010)


Panama became a Party to the 2003 Convention in 2004 and has no elements inscribed as yet on any of the lists. In terms of competent bodies, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI) is the main body acting through its Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage Project (or ‘Safeguarding Project’, located in the intellectual property General Directorate). The Vice-Ministry of Indigenous Affairs of the Ministry of Social Development has also prepared an inter-agency development plan, including intangible heritage with such areas as health, education and ecology; in addition, the establishment of an Inter-agency Council for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage was proposed in early 2016. The General Directorate of Handicrafts also runs a register of artisans and has a register of craft practices by region. The Department of Bi-lingual Education (under the Ministry of Education) is recording and revitalizing oral traditions and strengthening the country’s seven indigenous languages. The Art and Culture Centre of that Ministry is also involved in training regional coordinators to disseminate cultural programmes and conduct outreach in outlying areas and the Safeguarding Project staff have been trained by UNESCO to teach researchers and community members about the 2003 Convention, using documentation sheets and audio-visual technologies. Beyond this, there is no institution formally involved in training for intangible heritage management, although post-graduate university courses in relevant areas are planned.
No specific institution as yet exists for documentation and a need is also reported in order to develop a comprehensive protocol for this. The possibility of the Safeguarding Project becoming a permanent body for this and other safeguarding actions is being explored. In addition, the state radio and TV company and the Experimental University Film Group hold audio-visual records that can be made accessible.
Up until now, no comprehensive inventory of Panama’s intangible cultural heritage has been developed, although five Directories of different aspects of the intangible heritage exist: two related to specific ethnic groups and three for specific elements. These have been made by the Safeguarding Project and in cooperation with General Congresses of indigenous groups, as well as foundations and cultural associations related to the elements. An inventory database has been established which allows for cross-referencing by geographical location (GPS) and the five domains of the 2003 Convention. Audio-visual recording is only carried out in areas chosen by the communities and all documentation must be approved by their Indigenous Congress. The general format is that of a descriptive Directory in which the names of holders, transmitters and/or the element are given. In all cases of described elements, the communities are demanding up-skilling to be able to be more involved in documenting and safeguarding, and community leaders are identified for cooperation.
The focus of several other safeguarding measures is on promotion and training, through media outreach, fairs and training seminars, with the aim of raising awareness of the notion of intangible cultural heritage. Training workshops are planned in 2016 for 77 municipalities, ten regional offices of the Ministry (MICI), ten regional offices of the National Institute of Culture and 14 school regions of the Ministry of Education. In order to create a cadre of specialists and develop targeted research studies, two universities are preparing graduate courses focused on intangible cultural heritage and they will cooperate with the Safeguarding Project. Providing access to information on elements is undertaken through a journal of the MICI which includes information on the 2003 Convention, elements and other matters related to living heritage, and it is distributed among the cultural communities and in local libraries. The site database network, with updated information on GPS locations and information on communities has also been made available.
Formal educational programmes already include teaching on customs and cultural diversity (the distinct cultural expressions are recognized under Panamanian law). As non-formal teaching, the National Institute of Culture and the Handicrafts Directorate of MICI also hold craft classes for indigenous and local communities, with demonstrators who teach young people. Some independent community-based associations also teach dances, music and songs to young people while the General Congresses (for indigenous culture) assess the condition of elements and take measures to ensure the motivation of children to learn about them. Within indigenous communities, the Congresses recommend that arts and crafts (molas, basket-weaving etc.) be taught by older tradition-holders. In addition, fairs and festivals provide non-formal spaces in which young people and other visitors learn through audio-visual materials, competitions and traditional processes. Awareness about the importance of the environment and its resources for the intangible heritage is raised by the Safeguarding Project that disseminates information materials in communities and makes recordings of knowledge holders on the need to preserve the natural pharmacy and conserve natural resources; endangered plant species are being conserved in plots and the authorities cooperate with coastal communities to protect species through customs and traditions.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, the UNESCO Office in San José, which includes Panama in its cluster, organized a capacity-building workshop in 2015 and MICI held an international congress on intangible cultural heritage that same year in cooperation with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, UNESCO and WIPO, which has led to the development of a network of regional contacts for intangible heritage safeguarding. Also in 2015, specialists on the mole in Colombia and Panama met to analyze the feasibility of this cottage industry and the means of protecting it through intellectual property rights; documentaries and a video capsule on this element in Panama have been sent to Colombia in order to exchange information on this shared heritage, verify common elements and their variations over time. Lastly, Panama is preparing to become a member of the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Latin America (CRESPIAL, a category 2 centre in Peru) in order to develop its international cooperation, exchange experiences and initiate staff training.
Panama has no element inscribed on the Representative List.