Eleven States (Algeria, Mauritius, Japan, Gabon, Panama, China, Central African Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, and the Republic of Korea) have now ratified the Convention on the Safeguarding on the Intangible Cultural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 2003. The Director-General welcomed this progress, which only 16 months after its adoption, places this UNESCO Convention among those most rapidly ratified. “If this rythme is maintained,” Mr Matsuura said, “ we could expect the Convention to enter into force next year. This is very good news for those who’re justly concerned about the threats weighing against this particularly vulnerable heritage.”
The Convention, which completes UNESCO’s normative instruments on the conservation of tangible cultural heritage, aims to safeguard oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, traditional craftmanship, as well as knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. It provides for the drawing up of national inventories of cultural elements that must be protected, the creation of an Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage comprising experts from the future States-Parties, and the creation of two lists: one covering the intangible heritage of humanity, and the other featuring parts of that heritage considered to be in urgent need of safeguarding.
While waiting for the Convention to enter into force, which will occur three months after the 30th State deposits its instruments of ratification, UNESCO established, in 2001, a biennial Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage*, for which there have been 47 inscriptions made in 2001 and 2003. These Masterpieces will be integrated into the representative List of Intangible Heritage, as soon as the Convention enters into force. “The growing number of candidatures received for the 2005 proclamation – some 70 to date – are a clear indication of the importance States attach to intangible heritage,” declared the Director-General.