This Symposium was organised to implement the Draft Resolution approved by the 29th session of the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1997. That Resolution was presented by the Iranian authorities in response to their concern that the significance of women’s role in the transmission of intangible heritage has not been adequately recognised, and that it is necessary to bring the matter to the attention of the international community.
The Symposium provided a forum whereby further steps to be taken in the preservation, revitalisation and greater recognition of women’s significant role in relation to intangible cultural heritage could be constructively examined. As women are so often the principal transmitters of much intangible heritage in cultures worldwide, it is imperative that their role in reaching these objectives is a meaningful and central one.
Fourteen participants from twelve countries and eight participants from Iran attended the conference. The participants included practitioners, researchers and government officials. Several observers were also present.
The meeting was jointly organised and funded by UNESCO and the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO.
Tehran (Iran (Islamic Republic of))
Since the adoption of UNESCO’s Recommendations on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore in 1989 and the launching of the Safeguarding and Promoting of Intangible Cultural Heritage Programme in 1993 much has changed in the worldwide political, economic, social and cultural landscapes. In addition, the emergence of new technologies can have an adverse effect, which challenges the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, and alternatively, more positive influences facilitating preservation, revitalization and transmission. Despite the progress of UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Programme, many issues and questions have arisen in relation to the situation of this heritage. In response, UNESCO has organized eight regional seminars of assessment for the application of the Recommendation from 1995 to 1999. On the basis of the results of these regional seminars, the International Conference was organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution with the purpose of reviewing the protection of intangible cultural heritage at the end of the twentieth century, assessing the relevance of UNESCO’s 1989 Recommendation to the current situation and developing fresh orientations for UNESCO’s programme in this new world context.
The Action Plan at the conference highlights the concerns of thirty-four participants from twenty-seven countries and those of forty observers. While pursuing efforts in the field of safeguarding and promoting intangible cultural heritage, UNESCO’s programme must respond to Member States’ concerns regarding the continual emergence of relevant and diverse factors, including gender transformation, access to new technologies, bio-ethics, management of natural resources, cultural diversity and globalization. The following concrete recommendations were made within the Action Plan addressed to UNESCO:
UNESCO/Japan Funds-in-Trust ($69,942); the Smithsonian Institution ($60,000); US State Dept. ($30,000); National Endowment ($10,000)
Washington (United States of America)
This seminar was held in Beirut in May 1999 to consider the question as applied in Arab States. Experts from twelve countries took part in the seminar. Certain main concerns facing Arab States in the field of folklore, outlined in the completed questionnaires submitted by ten countries, were enumerated. These included:
Budgets reserved for folklore were reduced.
The effects of globalization on the cultural heritage were discussed, in the context of the understanding that culture itself is not static. Globalization was seen as a double-edged sword, capable of helping national cultures to revitalize their cultures to face other cultures, but also threatening them with cultural homogeneity. The importance of the preservation of popular and traditional culture for human development was also noted, as was the fact that folklore can be the source of cultural revival while also contributing to economic development. However, one must be careful that the use of folklore for economic ends does not result in damaging the folklore itself. Cultural heritage is threatened by environmental deterioration, but, at the same time, its revitalization can provide the means to creating a better environment as well as forming a part of human identity and dignity.
Participants suggested some measures to solve these folklore-related problems facing Arab States and to lead towards safeguarding and revitalization of cultural heritage. It was suggested that a global development plan be drawn up for popular and traditional heritage and that the necessary legislation be developed to protect this heritage and all persons working in the field. The safeguarding of this heritage is to be understood as a continuous process, and permanent institutions must be created to provide moral and financial support to its practitioners and others. A clear priority also in ensuring the continuity and sustainability of this culture is the introduction of courses related to traditional and popular culture in educational curricula.
Hanoi (Viet Nam)
Pretoria (South Africa)
The seminar took place in Noumea in February 1999. A total of twelve participants from twelve countries took part in the seminar. Thirteen out of the fourteen countries requested responded to the questionnaire, and, on the basis of these responses, the objectives of the seminar were established: to identify ways and means of reinforcing the application of the Recommendation in the region and to formulate a long-term regional strategy aimed at safeguarding, revitalization, legal protection, transmission, and dissemination of Pacific intangible heritage. Short reports were presented by each country. A few countries were unaware of the Recommendation due to their status as new Member States of UNESCO.
No distinction is made in the Pacific region between intangible and tangible heritage, although it has been used for the purposes of this study. Furthermore, for many Indigenous people, “folklore” is seen as an inappropriate and pejorative term, “cultural heritage” being much more positive and useful. The intangible heritage of the Pacific is mainly unrecorded and is threatened by the youthful demography of the region as well as by economic problems in the cultural sector. Another significant threat to the intangible heritage is the
residue of colonialism and its continuing effects on society. It is recognized strongly that traditional cultures have a relevance today for sustainable development.
The common issues and concerns identified during the seminar included:
Further points made include the need to:
Noumea (New Caledonia)
The seminar was organized in Accra in January 1999. Participants from seventeen countries took part in the seminar. A questionnaire was sent to forty states, of which twentyseven sent responses. This provided a good overview of the situation of applying the Recommendation in the region. This was supplemented by further reports from countries.
The seminar reviewed their understanding of the content of traditional culture and folklore. It sought to identify the factors that had sustained it in the past but that are now absent. It was evident that little had been done to implement the Recommendation beyond the steps taken after independence by the newly independent states. Governments were seen to rely on this heritage in strategies for nation-building and encouraging the formation of cultural identity. Reference was made to the role institutions and the media play, but a general lack of coordination, systematic collection, national cultural policies, resources, and manpower, etc., were seen as serious problems. This is unfortunate in light of what oral cultures can bring to the construction and reconstruction of contemporary cultures in Africa under their rubric of: “make the past a part of the present.”
In future actions, safeguarding of traditional culture should be understood within the everyday realities of African countries and not from the “academic” perspective embodied in the Recommendation. The need for a manual on folklore to be used as a resource by local teachers was discussed. The use of anthropological techniques for information-gathering by local, literate people was also considered, an action for which there are precedents from early twentieth-century Africa. The need for urgent action in gathering information on traditional cultures was stressed along with the need to revitalize cultures in order to counteract the residue of colonialism.
A major theme of the seminar was reintegrating traditional culture into modern lives and sharing it with members of the world community to show them the cultural context of the African music and dance styles that they have already adopted.
A regional seminar was organized in Tashkent in October 1998 on the basis of completed questionnaires submitted by eight countries. A total of fourteen representatives from eight countries attended. Several main objectives of the seminar were achieved, including:
Significant difficulties face the Recommendation; it has not yet been translated into the official languages of the region, and the newly independent states face major economic, political, and social problems that need to be addressed as an initial task. All participants noted that intangible cultural heritage plays an important role in nation-building and that it, therefore, remains a priority area in the cultural policy of all these states. Although all states have legislation for safeguarding this heritage, it was felt that it does not fit the needs of traditional culture and that new measures (such as copyright protection) need to be developed. Financial assistance from both public and private sectors needs to be increased and financial support given to craftsmen. The lack of computing infrastructure for archives of folklore materials was noted, as was the desire to create a computerized databank of organizations and institutions related to folklore; a UNESCO training seminar was requested to this end. The need for the training of specialists in the field of cultural management was also identified.
This seminar was organized in Joensuu in September 1998 on the basis of fifteen responses received by the organizing group to a questionnaire on the application of the Recommendation. Experts from fourteen countries took part in the seminar. The responses suggested that the main areas to be covered by the seminar should be:
Outline papers were delivered on four thematic areas: problems of culture, cultural heritage, new technologies, and cultural evolution.
Certain points were raised concerning a general view of life in contemporary Western Europe and the role of traditional culture and folklore within it. These points allowed for certain conclusions to be drawn that will help in the future development of both European and global heritage policies. These conclusions included the following:
Traditional culture and folklore have a great popularity today in terms of festivals, concerts, seminars, etc., and have become one of the most important features of culture today.
Out of twenty countries, seventeen responded to the questionnaire on the Recommendation, and a seminar was held in Tokyo in February/March 1998. A total of twenty experts from nineteen Member States in the region participated.
As regards the application of the principal provisions of the Recommendation, 48% of responding countries applied the provisions on identification, 28% the provisions on conservation, 28% its provisions for dissemination, and 42% the provisions for protection of folklore. There has been a notable improvement in the regional protection of traditional culture and folklore, although a few states felt that the Recommendation should eventually be improved. Recurrent themes in the responses included:
The country reports indicate genuine efforts towards the safeguarding of this heritage despite setbacks and difficulties. There is also evidence of genuine concern for safeguarding, even if this is not always understood by politicians.
Bamboo is one of the world’s oldest and most precious building materials. It has played a prominent role throughout
the tropical and sub-tropical belts of Asia, as well as in South America and Africa. In addition to its multiple uses in many aspects of life, its availability and ecological virtues, bamboo, like other sources of human inspiration, plays an important role in both oral and written traditions.
These traditions form a vital part of the cultural identity of the regions and peoples concerned, especially those in the
process of social and economic transition. To encourage the adaptation of bamboo’s traditional uses to contemporary
life, UNESCO organized this seminar in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.
A total of thirty-one participants (experts, representatives of research institutions, architects and observers) from some fifteen countries attended the seminar. They made concrete recommendations for governments of countries that produce and use bamboo, as well as for international organizations.
Japan Funds-in-Trust, $90,400
Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam)