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Culturelink review, no.24/April 1998 - contents - imprint - archive

Final Report of the Regional Seminar on the Application of the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of the Traditional Culture and Folklore of Latin America and the Caribbean

UNESCO, 1997, 72 pp.

UNESCO has published its Final Report from the Regional Seminar on the Application of the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of the Traditional Culture and Folklore of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Mexico, 22-24 September 1997. The Seminar, organized by UNESCO, the Mexican National Commission for UNESCO and the Mexican Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (CNCA), was attended by participants from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela. The seminar had the following aims:

  • to conduct a detailed analysis to identify the main trends in traditional culture and folklore in each region and within each country;
  • to formulate guidelines designed to allow different populations and ethnic groups to express their creativity to the full and assert their cultural identity;
  • to establish cultural policies to promote traditional cultures and folklore in line with the provisions of UNESCO's recommendations on the safeguarding of traditional culture and folklore; and
  • to formulate recommendations on future actions and proposals for projects to reinforce the application of the UNESCO recommendation, as well as a long-term regional strategy for cooperation between countries in the region.

The concept of popular culture must embrace not only the oral traditions, handicrafts, music and dance, but also community practices in fields such as social organization, traditional medicine, historical memory, ecology and alternative communication media and spaces, including indigenous and rural communities as well as urban centres. Popular culture constitutes a heritage of a huge range and complexity, whose preservation, promotion and dissemination requires great effort.

The Report reviews the preliminary summary findings of a questionnaire on the application of the Recommendation on the Safeguarding of the Traditional Culture and Folklore of Latin America and the Caribbean, analyzing the measures proposed by different countries for the modification and improvement of national and regional cultural policies, discussing problems of identification, conservation, protection and dissemination of popular culture and folklore, and looking at issues concerning legislation and international cooperation. The Report also presents the seminar methodology, discusses the points raised in the presentations, and includes recommendations to UNESCO and to member-state governments. The creation of a Regional Centre for Popular Culture and Folklore in Latin America and the Caribbean is proposed, to be based in Mexico and run by the Directorate General for Popular Cultures of the National Council for Culture and Art. Also, the registration and classification of all indigenous, ethnic or autochthonous languages of the region is recommended. This will be made possible through the creation of databases, promotion of cultural communication programmes, a linguistic atlas and bilingual publications.

The Final Report is available from Culturelink upon request.

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Summary of the Intergovernmental Conference on Language Policies in Africa

UNESCO, 1997, 13 pp.

UNESCO has published a Summary of the Intergovernmental Conference on Language Policies in Africa held in Harare, Zimbabwe, 17-21 March 1997. The Conference was attended by participants from all African Member States of UNESCO, discussing the management of multilingualism, regional and sub-regional language policy options and strategies for their implementation from an African perspective.

The objective of the conference was to define a realistic language policy which would enable the status and functions of languages present in each country to be ascertained in order to define an appropriate strategy for each specific situation. The conference was divided in two parts - the Meeting of Government Experts and the Conference of Ministers. On the basis of the ideas expressed by experts, the Ministers adopted the Declaration of Harare and a Plan of Action forming an integral part of a detailed work plan, with the aim to provide an accepted standard for the specific language policies of each State. The common standard needs to be sufficiently flexible to be used by countries with complex language situations, but at the same time sufficiently precise to enable the development of a coherent global language policy.

The Declaration includes visions for Africa, guidelines for policy formulation, policy options, strategies for implementation on a Pan-African, regional and government level, as well as statements of commitment and appeals. The Plan of Action proposes actions on regional, sub-regional and national levels, stating the nature of each action, its objectives, targeted results, timeframe and implementing bodies. It covers in detail plans for defining language policies, a language management plan, setting up national structures, creating a language atlas of contemporary Africa, revitalizing regional and sub-regional structures, producing linguistic and didactic tools, teaching local, sub-regional and regional languages, literacy, and promoting national and transnational languages as tools for inter-African regional and sub-regional cooperation.

The Summary is available from Culturelink upon request.

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World Information Report 1997-1998

A collective work edited by Yves Courrier
UNESCO Publishing, 1997, 420 pp.

In their introductory presentation, Yves Courrier and Andrew Large note: 'There are words that are used more frequently than others, and information is doubtless one of these. If, at first sight, it seems that everyone is concerned with information, it nevertheless remains true that different persons will have different ideas on its nature. The physicist, the engineer, the computer scientist, the psychologist, the journalist, the decision-maker, the librarian, the archivist or the researcher - all these specialists and many others deal with information in different capacities. What makes the differences is not the subject which interests them, but the way in which they use information and to what end.'

This approach to a phenomenon which is omnipresent explains the global concept and the structure of the present report. It is, admittedly, a generalised work, which poses social questions, but it does this through the description and analysis of all the sectors and features having to do with modern communication.

This Report aims to paint a complete and accurate picture of a changing reality at a time when the twentieth century is drawing to a close. The description, well-researched and supported by figures, of the information services which currently exist would be meaningless without the description of the technological innovations which will modify the situation in the coming years, as well as the economic, legal and political repercussions of these innovations, now and in the years to come.

The Report carries contributions by over thirty specialists and is sub-divided into three parts:

The first part: information services throughout the world. This geographical overview provides a general survey of the importance and the operating methods of libraries and archives all over the world.

The second part provides information on the infrastructures devoted to information activities. New technologies are described in their relationship to archiving and the circulation of data: recent developments in informatics, multimedia technologies, telecommunication technologies, the Internet, criteria for the design of main library buildings.

The third and last part is entitled 'Debates and Trends'. This part contains studies on technical subjects, because even if established models cannot be qualified as obsolete, they have at least been called into question by technological progress and the new social organisation. One of the most urgent and difficult questions is that of copyright in the electronic age. UNESCO is particularly interested in this question, as well as in international cooperation and assistance. These activities are not self-evident and cannot be a matter of simple goodwill. The legal aspect has its place in all this and it is necessary, in the interest of both authors and the public, to arrive at clear definitions.

More ideological or moral, other questions concern the nature and equity of what are called 'information societies'. This means guaranteeing to each country the information activity which is necessary for its survival and development. All countries are endeavouring to do this, but the gap is growing between the leaders and the others. This disparity is a cause of concern, both technically and morally. World citizenship depends on the answers that will be given.

(Source: CCIC Information, no. 27/1997)

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Guide to the Collection of Traditional Music and Instruments

by Geneviève Bournon
Revised and enlarged edition, 'Memory of the World' series, UNESCO Publishing, 1997, 150 pp.

At the time of its first edition, in 1981, the Guide proposed, for the first time, a working tool for those responsible for collecting cultural testimonies for purposes of research, protection and development: ethnomusicologists and ethnologists, collectors and folklore specialists, and museum curators and technicians. The present, enlarged edition also offers a new dimension for the reflection of the reader-user. It lays stress on the ethics and methods to be taken into account to ensure that the collection of material and intellectual property is not pillaging, but is carried out with the necessary scientific rigour, thus contributing to the culture and development of the community possessing this heritage.

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World Linguistic Atlas

A World Linguistic Atlas will be drawn up in 1998-1999 as part of the LINGUAPAX project, promoting linguistic diversity and plurilingualism in educational curricula (teaching of mother tongues and of national and foreign languages).

The atlas will present a panorama of our linguistic wealth before examining the conflicts and problems affecting endangered languages. It will also propose teaching tools for their preservation.

The project aims to further promote language teaching for disadvantaged groups in plurilingual countries in Africa, Asia, Latin and Central America.

(Source: UNESCO Sources, no. 93/1997)

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Amongst UNESCO's major publications, the following deserve to be mentioned:

The biennial World Education Report analyzes major trends and policy issues in education. The next report, expected at the year's end, will focus on 'teachers and teaching in a changing world'.

The World Science Report examines the state of science and technology around the world, looking at related indicators, research organizations, funding sources and recent advances in basic sciences. The next edition is expected in early 1998.

The World Social Science Report will be released for the first time in 1999. It will be in part descriptive (providing quantitative data where possible on advances made, their development in the first decades of next century), substantive (reviewing the various domains involved), and reflective (considering their place in the world of knowledge and action).

The first World Report on Culture is expected in 1998. It will survey recent trends in culture and development, monitor events affecting the state of cultures worldwide and analyze policy-oriented themes like: ethics and cultural globalization, urban cultures, and gender relations.

The second edition of the World Communication Report, expected in early 1998, will offer a panorama of technological progress, analyzing the transformations of the media world and exploring the links between information, rights, power and freedom of expression.

The World Information Report provides a synthesis of the state of the art concerning: library and archives services, technical infrastructure and major trends emerging with the information society, stakes involved with new technologies, economic intelligence, the future of the book, and copyright.(See pp. 49-50 in this issue.)

The Statistical Yearbook presents the 'world in figures' on education, science, culture, social sciences and communication.

Study Abroad 1998-1999 offers nearly 3,000 opportunities in 124 countries to continue higher education abroad and obtain financial assistance. The 30th edition is also available on CD-ROM.

(Source: UNESCO Sources, no. 93/1997)