What is the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)?
UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It was founded on November 16th, 1945 in order to serve the universal values, aiming at the human prosperity in a peaceful world. The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage – UNESCO 2003 (the text of the Convention: in English, Greek-French) is an international convention that emerged from the international concern regarding the concept of cultural heritage and especially its cultural aspects which have no tangible, material dimension (e.g. music, dance, knowledge and practices etc.). Until now (September 2017) it has been ratified by 175 states. Greece ratified the Convention with the Law 3521 (Official Government Gazette 275 / A / 22-12-2006).
The objectives of the Convention are:
(a) the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage;
(b) the respect for the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and people concerned;
(c) the local, national and international awareness for the importance of the intangible cultural heritage and the mutual appreciation it should carry;
(d) the international cooperation and assistance. The Convention stipulates the operation of bodies and committees, the purpose of which is to implement the general objectives and sub-objectives related to the intangible cultural heritage.
The organs of the Convention are:
1.The General Assembly of the States Parties to the Convention
It is the sovereign body of the Convention. It meets in ordinary session every two years. It may convene in extraordinary session by its decision or at the request of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage or at the request of at least one-third of the States Parties.
2. The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage or the “Committee”
The Committee’s functions shall be to:
(a) promote the objectives of the Convention, and encourage and monitor its implementation;
(b) provide guidance on the best practices and make recommendations on measures for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
(c) prepare and submit for approval to the General Assembly a plan for the use of the resources of the Fund, in accordance with Article 25.
(d) endeavor to find the means of increasing these resources and take the measures required for that purpose, in accordance with Article 25.
(e) prepare and submit for approval to the General Assembly the operational directives for the implementation of the Convention.
(f) examine, in accordance with Article 29, the reports submitted by the States Parties and to summarize them for the General Assembly.
(g) examine requests submitted by the States Parties and decide, in accordance with the objective selection criteria formulated by the Committee and approved by the General Assembly: (i) for the inscription on the lists and proposals referred to in Articles 16, 17 and 18, (ii) for the granting of international assistance in accordance with Article 22.
3. The Secretariat
The Secretariat of UNESCO assists the Committee. The Secretariat prepares the General Assembly’s and Committee’s documents, as well as the draft agenda of their meetings and ensures the implementation of their decisions.
The Convention stipulates the creation and continuous enrichment of three Lists, which are:
1. The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (article 16).
In order to make the Intangible Cultural Heritage more perceptible, to better understand its importance and to encourage the dialogue with respect to cultural diversity, the Committee, on a proposal from the States Parties concerned, draws up, updates and publishes a representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Committee shapes and submits for approval to the General Assembly the criteria for the composition, updating and publication of this representative list.
2. The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
In order to take appropriate safeguarding measures, the Committee draws up, updates and publishes a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and registers this heritage in the List at the request of the State Party concerned. The Committee shapes and submits for approval to the General Assembly the criteria for the composition, updating and publication of this list. In urgent cases – for which the objective criteria are approved by the General Assembly on a proposal from the Committee – the latter may register an element of the specific heritage in the List referred to in paragraph 1, in consultation with the State Party concerned.
3. Register of good safeguarding practices of the intangible cultural heritage (programs, plans and activities)
On the basis of the proposals submitted by the States Parties and in accordance with the criteria it formulates and approved by the General Assembly, the Committee periodically selects and promotes programs, plans and activities for the safeguarding of the heritage, which it considers to best reflect the principles and objectives of this Convention, taking into account the particular needs of the developing countries. To that purpose, it accepts, examines and approves the requests for international assistance submitted by the States Parties for the preparation of these proposals. The Committee accompanies the implementation of these programs, plans and activities by circulating the best practices in accordance with the formalities it has set.
The Article 7 (paragraph e) of the Convention stipulates that one of the Committee’s responsibilities is to prepare and submit for approval to the General Assembly the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the Convention.
The General Assembly adopted the Operational Guidelines for the first time in June 2008, and modified them in the years 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. It will continue to complete and modify them in future conferences. Among other things, the Operational Guidelines set out the procedures for enlisting elements of intangible cultural heritage in the Convention’s lists, providing international financial assistance, certifying non-governmental organizations to act ancillary to the work of the Committee or to engage communities in the implementation of the Convention.