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© Jean-Luc Manaud/ Rapho/ Eyedea

The kit on intangible cultural heritage is a basic reference and pedagogical instrument for promoting and ensuring an effective understanding of intangible cultural heritage and the 2003 Convention by governments, communities, experts, concerned UN agencies, NGOs and interested individuals. It has been first published in September 2009 on the occasion of the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and regularly updated ever since.

Conceived as a flexible tool, in which new brochures adapted to the local situation can be included, the kit should be continuously developed and translated into as many languages as possible.

The Kit is composed of 11 brochures and fact sheets on 12 safeguarding projects, all downloadable:

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Infokit 2011 - “What is intangible cultural heritage?”

The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the normative instruments developed by UNESCO. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe of the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.
The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as important for developing States as for developed ones. (…)

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The 2003 Convention

Infokit 2011- “2003 Convention text”

The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization hereinafter referred to as UNESCO, meeting in Paris, from 29 September to 17 October 2003, at its 32nd session…

Referring to existing international human rights instruments, in particular to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966.

Considering the importance of the intangilbe cultural heritage as a mainspring of cultural diversity and a guarantee of sustainable development, as underscored in the UNESCO Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore of 1989, in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity of 2001, and in the Istanbul Declaration of 2002 adopted by the Third Round Table of Ministers of Culture, (…)

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Implementing the 2003 Convention

Infokit 2011 - “Implementing the 2003 Convention”

The 2003 Convention, the first binding multilateral instrument for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, has four primary goals:

  • safeguard intangible cultural heritage;
  • ensure respect for the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned;
  • raise awareness at the local, national and international levels of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage, and of ensuring mutual appreciation thereof; and
  • provide for international cooperation and assistance.

This brochure provides information about statutory organs and their functions, and operational directives (…)

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Working towards the 2003 Convention

Infokit 2011 - “Working towards the 2003 Convention”

This brochure aims to provide a background to the Convention by highlighting those actions and programmes that, often indirectly, contributed to developing the ideas and policies that eventually led to the adoption of the Convention text as it stands.

  • 1946 - 1981: first steps
  • 1982 - 2000: from Mondiacult to Our Creative Diversity
  • 2000 onwards and the drafting of the Convention (…)

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Questions & Answers

Infokit 2011 - “Questions & Answers”

This brochure presents responses to the following frequently asked questions:

  • What is intangible cultural heritage?
  • ‘Protecting’ or ‘safeguarding’?
  • Why should we safeguard it?
  • Why UNESCO?
  • Why a Convention?
  • How does the Convention work?
  • How can intangible cultural heritage be internationally recognized under the Convention?
  • Can religions or languages be recognized under the Convention?
  • What can States do for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage?
  • Can I receive funding for the safeguarding my intangible cultural heritage?
  • Are intellectual property rights dealt with by the Convention?

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Identifying and inventorying Intangible Cultural Heritage

Infokit 2011 - “Inventorying Intangible Cultural Heritage”

The purpose of the Convention is to safeguard intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Countries that ratify it (known as States Parties) take on the obligations to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage present on their territories. (…)

Inventories are integral to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage because they can raise awareness about intangible cultural heritage and its importance for individual and collective identities. The process of inventorying
intangible cultural heritage and making those inventories accessible to the public can also encourage creativity and self-respect in the communities and individuals where expressions and practices of intangible cultural heritage originate. Inventories can also provide a basis for formulating concrete plans to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage concerned. (…)

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Intangible Cultural Heritage domains

Infokit 2011 - “Intangible Cultural Heritage domains”

The 2003 Convention proposes five broad ‘domains’ in which intangible cultural heritage is manifested:

  • Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
  • Performing arts;
  • Social practices, rituals and festive events;
  • Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
  • Traditional craftsmanship.

Instances of intangible cultural heritage are not limited to a single manifestation and many include elements from multiple domains. While the Convention sets out a framework for identifying forms of intangible cultural heritage, the list of domains it provides is intended to be inclusive rather than exclusive; it is not necessarily meant to be ‘complete’. States may use a different system of domains. There is already a wide degree of variation, with some countries dividing up the manifestations of intangible heritage differently, while others use broadly similar domains to those of the Convention with alternative names. They may add further domains or new sub-categories to existing domains. (…)

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Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development

Infokit - “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Development”

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage recognizes the ‘importance of the intangible cultural heritage as a mainspring of cultural diversity and a guarantee of sustainable development’.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development constitutes a plan of action addressing the three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – of sustainable development through 17 Sustainable Development Goals as highly interdependent spheres of action that inform development pathways at all levels, and respecting the three fundamental principles of human rights, equality, and sustainability. Intangible cultural heritage can effectively contribute to sustainable development along each of its three dimensions, as well as to the requirement of peace and security as fundamental prerequisites for
sustainable development.

How can the place of intangible cultural heritage in sustainable development best be understood so that its contributions can be recognized and fully realized?

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Intangible Cultural Heritage and Gender

Infokit - “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Gender”

Values, norms and rules related to gender are diverse among societies, communities and groups. All intangible cultural heritage expressions carry and transmit knowledge and norms related to the roles and relationships between and within gender groups in a given community. In such a way, intangible cultural heritage is a privileged context for shaping gender roles and identities and transmitting them. Intangible cultural heritage and the construction of one’s gender identity are therefore inseparable.

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Intangible Cultural Heritage and Education

Brochure Living Heritage and Education

Education can play a valuable role in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage recognizes the transmission of intangible cultural heritage ‘through formal and non-formal education’ as a key safeguarding measure.

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Intangible Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Peoples

Cover Brochure Living Heritage and Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples hold a rich diversity of living heritage, including practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills. The practice and transmission of this heritage contributes to the ongoing vitality, strength and wellbeing of communities.
To that end, the Convention provides an important opportunity for indigenous peoples to shape the international heritage discourse and ensure that their experiences and needs in safeguarding living heritage are taken into account.

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Fact sheets on Intangible Cultural Heritage

Fact sheets present the following safeguarding projects:

  • Three-year campaign to create interest in Colombia’s living heritage
  • Revival of intergenerational transmission of Georgian traditional polyphony
  • Open-air forum on intangible cultural heritage and conflict resolution in Kenya
  • Literacy programme through teaching traditional oral poetry: the case of rural women in Yemen
  • Safeguarding ICH through sustainable cultural tourism: the case of the Batammariba of Koutammakou, a World Heritage Site in Togo
  • Documenting and revitalizing Tham Roc puppetry in Viet Nam
  • The value of old recordings today: the case of Papua New Guinea
  • Safeguarding board games of the Afar and Somali people of the Horn of Africa
  • Traditional money banks in Vanuatu
  • Documentation of musical heritage in Hungary
  • The Cocolo dancing tradition, Dominican Republic
  • Shashmaqom - safeguarding of a common heritage, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

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