The provisions of the Convention only apply in the territories of the States that are party to the Convention, that is, Member States of UNESCO that have deposited an instrument of ratification (or of acceptance, approval or accession) with the Director-General of UNESCO and for which the Convention has entered into force.
Ratification is ‘the international act so named by whereby a State establishes on the international plane its consent to be bound by a treaty’ (Article 2(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). Acceptance, approval and accession have the same legal effects as ratification. The Convention enters into force three months after the deposit by a State of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. An updated list of States Parties to the Convention is available online.
The Convention is a permissive document and the majority of its articles are worded in non-prescriptive language, allowing governments’ flexibility in their approach to its implementation. However, States Parties are required to adopt appropriate measures at the national and international level to encourage and foster all forms of international cooperation aimed at safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The specific obligations outlined in the Convention and in the Operational Directives for its implementation are summarised below:
- States Parties are required by the Convention to take the necessary measures to ensure the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage present in its territory and to include communities, groups and relevant NGOs in the identification and definition of elements of that intangible cultural heritage. To ensure identification with a view to safeguarding, States Parties are obliged to create one or more inventories of the intangible cultural heritage present in their territory, which shall be regularly updated. While Articles 11 and 12 are more prescriptive than other Articles in the Convention, they still provide enough flexibility for a State Party to determine how it will prepare its inventories. A State Party is not obliged to have already drawn up one or more inventories before ratification of the Convention. On the contrary, the development and updating of inventories is an ongoing process aimed at carrying out identification with a view to ensuring the transmission of intangible cultural heritage.
- Articles 13, 14 and 15 of the Convention propose safeguarding and awareness-raising measures that a State Party should endeavour to apply, with the widest possible participation of communities, groups and, where appropriate individuals that create maintain and transmit intangible cultural heritage.
- States Parties are required to make regular contributions to the Fund established under Article 25 of the Convention. States Parties that did not make the declaration referred to in Article 26.2 of the Convention pay, at least every two years, a contribution into the Fund of 1% of their contribution to the regular budget of UNESCO. States that made the declaration referred to in Article 26.2 pay, at least every two years, a contribution into the Fund which is as close as possible to 1% of their contribution to the regular budget of UNESCO.
- States Parties are required to periodically submit reports to the Intergovernmental Committee on the legislative, regulatory and other measures taken for the implementation of the Convention (Article 29). These reports shall also include information on the status of all the elements of the intangible cultural heritage present in the State’s territory that have been inscribed on the Representative List. Each State party shall also submit to the Committee reports on the status of elements of intangible cultural heritage present in its territory that have been inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List.