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On 18 March 2001, UNESCO for the first time awarded the title of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" to 19 outstanding cultural spaces or forms of expression from the different regions of the world. See press release.

   Criteria used in the selection process were outstanding value, roots in cultural tradition, affirmation of cultural identity, source of inspiration and intercultural exchange, contemporary cultural and social role, excellence in the application of skills, unique testimony of living cultural tradition, and risk of disappearing. This initiative to help preserve traditional and popular culture is intended to complement UNESCO's World Heritage List of natural and cultural sites.

   Proclamations will be made every two years by an international jury appointed by UNESCO's Director-General. Below is the inaugural list of UNESCO "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity"