Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.a.3

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Mongolia has nominated Mongolian traditional practices of worshipping the sacred sites (No. 00871) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Mongolian practices of worshipping sacred sites have developed in the cultural space that is home to the nomadic lifestyle, which is characterized by its close harmony with nature and the environment. According to ancient shamanism, these practices are based on the belief in the existence of invisible deities of the sky, earth, mountains and natural surroundings. Local elders teach young people how to participate in and behave during the ceremony. The worship ceremonies build a sense of community and solidarity and raise awareness about the interdependence of human beings and the environment. During the communist regime in Mongolia, the worship of sacred sites was one of several practices that was banned, severely threatening its viability. Though the government and communities have been actively reviving the tradition, several challenges remain. These include rapid globalization and urbanization and the flow of herdsmen from sacred site areas to cities, a drastic reduction in the number of practitioners and masters with the necessary knowledge, and the operations of a number of mining companies. Locals are nonetheless enthusiastic about reviving the tradition and transmitting related knowledge, and in recent years many temples have been restored and favourable conditions created to conduct worshipping practices in local areas.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

U.1:   The links between intangible and tangible heritage are well explained in the file. There is also a clear description of the link between the element and the natural environment, which is the habitat of the deities that transmit spiritual forces to the bearers, namely the nomadic communities. The element has not only religious but also ecological functions, such as increasing the awareness among the communities concerned of the interdependance of human beings and the environment and respect for nature and the universe. The element also contributes to the preservation of biological and cultural diversity.

U.2:   Although the communities and the State Party have demonstrated efforts to revive and safeguard the tradition, it is still threatened by the loss of practitioners, the diminishment of active sacred sites and migrations to urban areas caused by both global and local economic changes. One current threat identified relates to the operations of mining companies across large areas of the State Party which were home to some of the sacred sites, thereby limiting access for the communities. This has led to communities moving away from their traditional lands, thus abandoning the practice and transmission of the element.

U.3:   Significant efforts have been made since the end of the communist regime to support and strengthen the remaining practices and their transmission. Temples have been restored. The safeguarding measures adequately respond to the threats identified and include research, documentation, awareness-raising and educational activities. The State Party is planning to establish a legal framework that would require natural and cultural heritage land assessments to be carried out before the issue of mining licences. Other measures include: the inclusion of teaching about the ceremonies in school curricula; dedicated publications; conferences and media productions and the development of a National Action Plan. Although there is a clear commitment to revitalize the ongoing practice and transmission of the element, it is still facing serious threats.

U.4:   The nomination describes widespread efforts to revitalize the related ceremonies, involving various stakeholders. It refers to communities, groups and individuals, including religious leaders, who have actively participated in the design and preparation of the nomination at all stages. Evidence of their free, prior and informed consent is provided, including personalized consent letters.

  1. Further decides that, on the basis of the information provided by the submitting State to the Committee at its present session concerning the element’s description and viability in the inventory, as well as the evidence of the communities’ involvement in the inventorying process, the following criterion for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is satisfied:

U.5:   The element has been included in the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding since 2010, maintained by the Cultural Heritage Center at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The extract includes a listing of elements along with links to wider descriptions. The communities are involved in the inclusion and updating of the inventory concerned.

  1. Commends the State Party for the strong commitment demonstrated towards the safeguarding of the element;
  2. Inscribes Mongolian traditional practices of worshipping the sacred sites on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.