UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, ratified by 111 states, seeks to protect intangible culture like song, dance and cultural events or festivals.

Article 1 – Purposes of the Convention

The purposes of this Convention are:

(a) to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage;

(b) to ensure respect for the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned;

(c) to raise awareness at the local, national and international levels of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage, and of ensuring mutual appreciation thereof;

(d) to provide for international cooperation and assistance.

Article 2 – Definitions

For the purposes of this Convention,

1. The “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.

2. The “intangible cultural heritage”, as defined in paragraph 1 above, is manifested inter alia in the following domains:

(a) oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;

(b) performing arts;

(c) social practices, rituals and festive events;

(d) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;

(e) traditional craftsmanship.

Along with the text of the Convention, UNESCO provides a list of masterpieces of intangible culture to be protected. One such item is the Carnaval de Oruro, the Bolivian cultural festival. This video includes some footage of dancing from the 2006 festival.

Youtuber TynansAnger, upset that UNESCO’s list included no material from the United States, made the following video suggesting the work of Andy Warhol belongs on the list.

I’d love to see some American Indian or First Nations material on the list, personally.

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