The definition of Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible cultural heritage is a living reality that changes, evolves, transforms, adapts and passes on to the next generations, following social and cultural transformations. Therefore, the intangible cultural heritage, as a living cultural phenomenon, cannot safeguarded in a static way, thus remaining “protected” by change and transformation, which may be due to a variety of factors (dislocation of traditional / pre-industrial social structures, urbanization, decrease in population, expansion of global cultural standards, etc.). Safeguarding does not imply the return to an “authentic” or “genuine” form of a cultural expression of intangible cultural heritage. On the contrary, it approaches the heritage as something constantly evolving and reimagined through complex social and cultural processes.

Safeguarding, as a management policy, differs from the concept of protection. Protection has as a basic purpose the proper conservation of the architectural or movable monuments and monumental ensembles (as well as of the environment they are part of, eg. natural environment, urban fabric) and their shielding against the threat of time alterations due to weather and climatic conditions and natural phenomena in general, as well as harmful human interventions and others.

According to art. 2, par. 3 of the Convention, “safeguarding” means measures aimed at ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage, including the identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission, particularly through formal and non-formal education, as well as the revitalization of the various aspects of such heritage.


The following can be considered safeguarding measures:

(a) research and documentation of an element of intangible cultural heritage,

(b) strengthening procedures and conditions of transmission to younger generations, eg. through formal and non-formal education,

(c) sensitization of local societies and the wider community for the value of intangible cultural heritage,

(d) highlighting the importance of the intangible cultural heritage to the domestic and international audience. (Frequently Asked Questions)


Sensitization of society is pursued by any means that can be considered appropriate, e.g. by organizing meetings and seminars on the understanding and use of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Awareness raising actions also focus on the exchange of good practices at a regional, national and international level, with emphasis on design and implementation of educational material, use of modern technological applications, the activation of formal and non-formal education structures to safeguard intangible cultural heritage and transmit it to the younger generations. All these shall be done with the greatest possible involvement of the communities of bearers, of the local government and of the cultural management bodies (e.g. museums, cultural associations, archives etc).