home > publications > review > no.41 > unesco  


Culturelink review, no.41/November 2003 - contents - imprint - archive

The International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of intangible cultural heritage, the performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, as well as the knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe and traditional craftsmanship, now benefit from an international legal instrument to safeguard intangible heritage through cooperation.

An overwhelming majority of the Member States attending the UNESCO General Conference at Headquarters (September 29 to October 17, 2003), adopted the International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which complements the Organization's existing legal instruments for the safeguarding of heritage.

'The safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is of general interest to humanity,' states the Convention, which underlines its 'invaluable role' in 'bringing human beings closer together and ensuring exchange and understanding among them.'

The convention requires a minimum of 30 States Party signatories to enter into force.

The convention specifically provides for the drawing up of national inventories of cultural property to be protected, the establishment of an Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, composed of experts from future States Parties to the Convention, and the creation of two lists - a Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity and a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

The text further stresses that safeguarding intangible cultural heritage is a complex process involving many parties, starting with the communities and groups that bring it to life. According to the Convention, safeguarding activities will be financed by a fund made up of contributions from States Parties, funds appropriated for this purpose by UNESCO's General Conference, and contributions, gifts or bequests made by other States, organizations or individuals.

According to Mounir Bouchenaki, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Culture, the new Convention 'will benefit from UNESCO's 30 years of experience in the domain of tangible cultural heritage', safeguarded by the 1972 Convention, 'which, when necessary, served as a model for the new instrument.'

The complete text of the Conventioncan be found at: http://www.unesco.org/confgen/2003/intangible

return to top of page

Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

In 1998, UNESCO created an international distinction entitled Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity to honour the most remarkable examples of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity to safeguard, transmit and revitalize this extremely precious asset of the human cultural treasury, and to maintain the world's cultural diversity.

The Proclamation encourages governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local communities to identify, safeguard, revitalize and promote their oral and intangible cultural heritage. It also aims to encourage individuals, groups, institutions and organizations to contribute to the management, preservation, protection and promotion of this heritage.

The Proclamation rewards cultural spaces and traditional/popular forms of cultural expression, both of which have an outstanding value. A cultural space is defined as a place which has a concentration of popular and traditional cultural activities and also as a time for a regularly occurring event. The temporal and physical space owes its existence to the cultural events which traditionally take place there. A traditional/popular form of cultural expression manifests itself through language, oral literature, music, dance, games, mythology, rituals, costumes, craftwork, and other arts, as well as through traditional forms of communication and information.

In 2001, nineteen masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity were proclaimed: The Garifuna Language, Dance and Music (Belize), The Oral Heritage of Gelede (Benin), The Oruro Carnival (Bolivia), The Kunqu opera (China), The Gbofe of Afounkaha, the Music of the Transverse Trumpets of the Tagbana Community (Côte d'Ivoire), The Cultural Space of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of the Congos of Villa Mella (Dominican Republic), The Oral Heritage and Cultural events of the Zápara People (Ecuador-Peru), Georgian Polyphonic Singing (Georgia), The Cultural Space of Sosso-Bala in Nyagassola (Guinea), The Kutiyattam Sanskrit Theatre (India), Opera dei Pupi, Sicilian Puppet Theatre (Italy), The Nogaku Theatre (Japan), Cross Crafting and its Symbolism (Lithuania), The Cultural Space of Jemaa el-Fna Square (Morocco), Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao (Philippines), Royal Ancestral Rite and Ritual Music in Jongmyo Shrine (Republic of Korea), The Cultural Space and Oral Culture of the Semeiskie (Russian Federation), The Mystery Play of Elche (Spain), and The Cultural Space of the Boysun District (Uzbekistan). The proclaimed masterpieces are a vivid representation of the world's cultural richness and diversity, handed down from generation to generation.

In 2003, the International Jury recommended a list of twenty-eight cultural spaces or forms of traditional and popular expression, which were then proclaimed as masterpieces. These 28 Masterpieces (2 in Africa, 11 in Asia, 4 in Europe, 3 in the Arab States, 6 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 2 multinational) represent outstanding examples of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity testifying to the world's cultural diversity: Azerbaijani Mugham (Azerbaijan), The Carnival of Binoche (Belgium), The Andean Cosmovision of the Kallawaya (Bolivia), The Oral and Graphic Expressions of the Wajapi (Brazil), The Oral Traditions of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa (Central African Republic), The Royal Ballet of Cambodia (Cambodia), The Art of Guqin Music (China), The Carnival of Barranquilla (Colombia), La Tumba Francesa, Music of the Oriente Brotherhood (Cuba), The Al-Sirah al-Hilaliyya Epic (Egypt), The Kihnu Cultural Space (Estonia), The Tradition of Vedic Chanting (India), Wayang Puppet Theatre (Indonesia), The Maroon Heritage of Moore Town (Jamaica), Ningyo Johruri Bunraku Puppet Theatre (Japan), The Art of Akyns, Kyrgyz Epic Tellers (Kyrgyzstan), Woodcrafting Knowledge of the Zafimaniry (Madagascar), The Indigenous Festivity Dedicated to the Dead (Mexico), The Traditional Music of Morin Khuur (Mongolia), The Pansori Epic Chant (Republic of Korea), Lakalaka, Dances and Sung Speeches of Tonga (Tonga), The Arts of the Meddah, Public Storytellers (Turkey), Vanuatu Sand Drawings (Vanuatu), Nha Nhac, Vietnamese Court Music (Viet Nam), Arab States: Iraqi Maqam (Iraq), Songs of Sanaa (Yemen), The Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania), Shashmaqom Music (Tajikistan and Uzbekistan).

Furthermore, the Second Proclamation coincides with the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (see page 25).

The third Proclamation is expected in 2005.

To obtain more information, please visit: http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/

return to top of page

LINKS - Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems

LINKS - Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems is a UNESCO project that focuses on the interface between local and indigenous knowledge and on the Millennium Development Goals of poverty eradication and environmental sustainability. It addresses the different ways that indigenous knowledge, practices and worldviews are drawn into development and resource management processes. It also considers the implications this may have for building equity in governance, enhancing cultural pluralism and sustaining biodiversity.

The key modalities for the LINKS action include the following:

  • demonstration projects in collaboration with rural and indigenous communities;
  • action research on key concerns and issues;
  • information and communication technologies to record, manage and transmit indigenous knowledge and know-how;
  • training to build local capacities in relevant multimedia techniques; and
  • international workshops and seminars to promote reflection and dialogue.

The LINKS project promotes an all-encompassing approach to local and indigenous knowledge. The fact is that in many cultures, the 'rational' or 'objective' cannot be separated from the 'sacred' or 'intuitive'. Nature and Culture are not opposed and circumscribed by sharp boundaries. Knowledge, practice and representations are intertwined and mutually dependent.

A number of sessions, seminars, workshops, events and conferences have been organized within the framework of the LINKS project and a number of documents and publications have been published.

For more information, please contact: Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems, UNESCO, SC/CSI-LINKS, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris Cedex 15, France; fax: +33 1 4568 5808; e-mail: links@unesco.org; http://www.unesco.org/links

return to top of page

The Small Islands Voice

The Small Islands Voice is an inter-regional initiative focusing on small islands - both small island developing states and islands with other affiliations - in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific regions. The goal of this initiative is that the voice of the general public in small islands should be heard loud and clear and that this voice should become a driving force for island development. While this is a long-term vision, it is hoped that the Small Islands Voice can make a significant contribution, which can help pave the way towards sustainable island development.

The Small Islands Voice started in early 2002 from St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, from Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and from Palau in the Pacific, and they all embarked upon different activities within their regions. Many other islands are now actively involved in the Small Islands Voice, through global internet-based discussions and specific locally-based activities.

Involving young people in determining the future of their islands is an important part of this initiative. The initiative is all about people in small islands exchanging their views on environment and developing issues, working together to solve their problems and taking part in the Small Island Developing States' Programme of Action.

To get involved, please contact: Claire Green, UNESCO-CSI, Paris, France tel.: +33 1 45 68 40 43; fax: +33 1 45 68 58 08; e-mail: c.green@unesco.org; or Gillian Cambers, P.O. Box 783, Puerto Rico 00677, tel.: +1 787 823 1756; fax: +1 787 823 1774; e-mail: g_cambers@hotmail.com, gilliancambers@aol.com; http://www.smallislandsvoice.org

return to top of page

World Cities Join to Protect Their Biological and Cultural Diversity

The image of cities as hotbeds of pollution, stress, poverty and crime needs an update. They are also havens of natural and cultural diversity - and may hold the keys to sustainable development in the twenty-first century. While some three billion people worldwide are now estimated to live in towns or cities, with a growing number of poor, cities are by no means incompatible with rich biodiversity. Settler cemeteries in Chicago have preserved some of the oldest oak trees in the region, peregrine falcons nest on Manhattan's bridges and there are more species of leafy plant in a 30-kilometre radius around Brooklyn than in the vast farmlands of USA's mid-West. Meanwhile, highly built-up Seoul is finding that rooftop green spaces provide 'stepping stones' of biodiversity, where some long-banished species are returning.

To take this 'new look' at cities even further, counsellors, planners and other urban stakeholders from cities around the world, including New York and Chicago (USA), Cape Town (South Africa), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Montevideo (Uruguay), Rome (Italy), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Stockholm (Sweden), and Seoul (Republic of Korea), met with scientists and conservation specialists in a two-day conference on 'Urban Biosphere and Society: Partnership of Cities', organized by Columbia University, UNESCO and UN-Habitat, 29-30 October 2003, at the New York Academy of Sciences, which also co-sponsored the event.

One outcome of the meeting is the creation of a partnership between these cities to pool experience and expertise on a long-term, regular basis. The participants discussed the usefulness of sustainable development tools, such as UNESCO's 'biosphere reserve' concept, already applied for over thirty years in 440 sites in 97 countries. Although some of these sites include cities, so far no urban area has used this model to examine the interplay between social, economic and environmental issues in sustainability. Some cities, like Rome and Seoul, are actively looking into the applicability of UNESCO's urban biosphere reserve concept.

To look at some of the challenges and opportunities of treating urban environments as dynamic biospheres, in 2000 Columbia University's Earth Institute teamed with UNESCO and its Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme to form CUBES (the Columbia University-UNESCO Joint Programme on Biosphere and Society). CUBES has since invited case studies from eleven cities. Research findings from several of these case studies were presented at the two-day meeting in New York.

Some urban ecology initiatives

New York Metropolitan Region

The New York Metropolitan Region is one of the most urbanized regions in the world, with a total population of 21.5 million, 8 million of them living in New York City. But the region has some 2413.5 kilometres of coast shoreline and four of the five New York City boroughs are located on islands. With urbanization, many of the region's vulnerable and critical habitats - especially wetlands - have been degraded. The few remaining habitat sites, like Jamaica Bay, an hour's subway ride from central Manhattan, still provide critical ecological functions, such as stopping-off points for migratory bird species. As clean-up efforts have progressed, these sites have witnessed a noticeable increase in species richness over the past decades. The wetlands also provide a buffer against the forecast rise in sea level with global warming. This function, though, has been dramatically reduced by landfill and construction, which prevents the wetlands from 'retreating' inland to absorb sea level rise.

The New York Metropolitan Region case study shows how the biosphere model can be adapted to provide a set of tools for sustainable development linked to the conservation of biological and cultural diversity. Whereas in the classical biosphere reserves there is a core conservation area with minimum human impact, surrounded by a buffer zone, in an urban biosphere reserve the 'core' might even lie outside the densely-inhabited areas. And unlike the traditional biosphere reserve, the function of the core in an urban area like New York, might be a focus for the region's social and cultural activity and identity, rather than a hotspot of biodiversity. In New York, a potential 'core' area would be the New York/New Jersey harbour and estuary area.

The case study also looks at the so-called 'footprint' of the city, its impact on natural resources. On the one hand the footprint can be global, as it encourages, for example, turning fields over to monoculture coffee plantation in distant countries. But the footprint of a high-rise development is also much smaller than a suburban area with similar population.

Green rooftops for Seoul

Around 42 per cent of Seoul is covered with buildings. Open land is scarce and market forces favour development, making green spaces for wild animals scarce. But, by landscaping the city's rooftops, an estimated 200 square kilometres of green space could be created - approximately 30 per cent of the Seoul area. To further this idea, Seoul city government now actively promotes rooftop greening, paying for structural safety survey costs. It has already provided funding for 10 sites, in addition to a pioneering project on the top of UNESCO's downtown field office building. In UNESCO's rooftop site, just 5 months after its construction, the 75 species of plant introduced at the outset had already been joined by a further 39 species, presumably from surrounding green areas, while 37 species of insect had colonized the site.

In addition to the experimental green rooftop scheme, Seoul also has a 167 square kilometre greenbelt around its perimeter, limiting uncontrolled sprawl. It includes forest, dry fields and rice paddies and is complemented by a patchwork of green spaces in the city that could potentially be linked by green corridors. This complex provides the basis for plans to form a city-wide urban biosphere reserve.

Sao Paulo City Green Belt biosphere reserve

With its 18 million inhabitants Sao Paulo is the world's fourth largest urban agglomeration. In 1994, the 1.5 million hectare Sao Paulo City Green Belt Reserve was established as part of the UNESCO Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve, following a petition signed by over 150,000 people. In addition to its diverse ecosystems, including the rain forest, cultivated areas, savannas and water bodies, the Green Belt biosphere reserve provides opportunities for youth training in subjects such as ecotourism, organic farming, land rehabilitation, waste recycling and small-scale food production. Over 500 students have already followed such courses. The biosphere reserve has also become an important forum for promoting citizenship and environmental debates and has already resulted in drastic modifications to a planned highway scheme.

Cape Town Case Study

Cape Town, in the south west of the African continent, has a population of about 3.5 million. Two UNESCO biosphere reserves already exist in the surrounding rural areas and a third is currently being proposed. The Cape Town urban biosphere case study covers the Cape Flats area, where some 20 per cent of the population lives in sprawling, informal settlements. In some of its communities, over 70 per cent of the residents live below the poverty line. Unemployment is high, with only 36 per cent of adults in paid employment. The windswept mosaic of dunes and wetlands of Cape Flats is where victims of apartheid were relocated out of white areas. Now, in a pilot initiative, the City of Cape Town has joined with the Botanical Society of South Africa, the National Botanical Institute and the Table Mountain Fund to form Cape Flats Nature. This project focuses on conservation and restoration of biodiversity in several sites, enlisting the participation of local people through educational programmes.

For more information, please contact: Suzanne Bilello (+1-212 963 4386), or Melody Corry (+-1-212-963-5985/5992).

return to top of page

DigiArts - UNESCO Knowledge Portal

Arts and music connected to media and technology

DigiArts is one of UNESCO's initiatives aiming at the development of interdisciplinary activities in research, creativity and communication in the field of media arts. Focusing on three target groups, artists/researchers, young people, and the general public, it promotes intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity within the knowledge society. It is a part of the Knowledge Portal - together with the Ocean, Education and Heritage portals - through which UNESCO has taken measures to ensure that it enters the development era of ICT disseminating and sharing knowledge. Under the supervision of Ms Milagros Del Corral, UNESCO's Deputy Assistant Director-General for Culture, it is coordinated by an interdisciplinary group of UNESCO professionals from different sectors, both at the Headquarters in Paris and in the field offices, and also assisted by a network of international institutions working in the portal's fields of competence. DigiArts has the following aims:

  • to disseminate historical, theoretical, artistic, technical and scientific research in the field of electronic and digital arts, including the interdisciplinary study of the arts and sciences;
  • to promote information exchange, dialogue and communication among artists, scientists and technicians from different geo-cultural regions, especially enabling developing countries to develop their own approaches and practices in various disciplines and fields of knowledge connected to media arts;
  • to support existing institutions and networks throughout the world in the transfer of knowledge;
  • to encourage the use of electronic software among the youth for electronic communication and creation.

DigiArts gathers information on media art and music using technology. Each section provides access to documents and books in the specific fields and biographies of individual artists classified by geographical region. In addition, it also provides the mapping of institutions in the field of media arts and music using technology, including research centres, educational institutions, and information on training opportunities, such as free software tutorials and online seminars.

For more information, please visit the website: http://portal.unesco.org/digiarts

return to top of page

Bursaries for Artists Programme UNESCO-Aschberg 2004-2005

The UNESCO-Aschberg Bursaries for Artists Programme was created in 1994 to open new career prospects to young artists in all disciplines. This is done by offering them the opportunity to continue their training in specialized institutions. This programme operates under the aegis of the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture of UNESCO (IFPC). For 2003/2004 the programme proposed 57 fellowships offered by 40 partner institutions in 26 countries.

The UNESCO-Aschberg Brochure is available on UNESCO's Internet site: www.unesco.org/culture/ifpc which is regularly updated.

For more information, please contact: UNESCO-IFPC, 1, rue Miollis, 75732 Paris Cedex 15, France, e-mail: dir.aschberg@unesco.org; http://www.unesco.org/culture/ifpc; http://www.unesco.org/culture/aschberg

return to top of page

The Global Alliance on line

The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity goes live with a new database conceived as an interactive platform to match offers and demands from members and other cultural operators concerning the development of local creative industries and the enforcement of copyright. Fully respecting the confidential nature of certain information, the database provides access to profiles, requests and offers of services, know-how and collaboration put forward by over 150 Global Alliance partners operating in all regions. A true meeting point, the new Global Alliance website enhances network possibilities for partners and will facilitate the establishment of new partnerships and pilot projects.

Are you looking for a partner to overcome domestic and international distribution barriers? Would you benefit from training in a key domain? Would you appreciate receiving support and guidance to develop or redefine your business plan? Are you interested in sharing your entrepreneurial know-how in the publishing, music or multimedia environment? The Global Alliance database is at your disposal to open new opportunities for you and others.

For more information, please visit: http://www.unesco.org/culture/alliance