ICH Safeguarding in the Pacific

Sing Sing Wabag Enga(c)Wikicommons

Pacific Island States Adopting Progressive Measures to Protect Their Diverse and Rich Heritage

The Pacific region's heritage primarily takes the form of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festivities, knowledge of nature and the universe and traditional craftsmanship.  UNESCO in Apia organised several regional and national meetings since 2007 to enhance awareness of ICH safeguarding in the Pacific.  The meetings were held in Fiji (regional in 2007 and national in 2008), PNG (2008), Tonga (national in 2008) and Vanuatu (national in 2009).

National Strategy, Capacity Building and Networking for ICH Safeguarding

Building on the above, assistance was provided to support multi- stakeholder consultation that brought together stakeholders involved in ICH safeguarding including ICH custodians, traditional leaders, NGOs, researchers and academics, private sector including tourism experts, as well as national authorities concerned so as to discuss a national strategy for ICH safeguarding and learn the implications of the ratification of the 2003 Convention.  

Such consultations were held in Palau (Feb 2010), Samoa (May 2010), the Cook Islands (June 2010) and the Solomon Islands (Oct 2010), Kiribati (Feb 2011), Nauru (May 2011) and  the Republic of the Marshall Islands (June 2011). 

Since January 2012, within the framework of Japan Funds-in-Trust project "Safeguarding ICH through the Strengthening of National Capacities in Asia and the Pacific", the following workshops were held; ICH Ratification Workshop (Apia, Feb 2012), ICH Implementation Workshop (Apia, Feb 2013), ICH Implementation Workshop (Port Moresby, May 2012), ICH Inventorying Workshop (Goroka, Oct 2012).

Besides, CRIHAP, Category II Centre in China, organised capacity building activities for the Pacific states parties (Beijing, Dec 2012) (Chengdu, July 2013). 

In addition, Pacific Information and Networking Meeting was held annually in Fiji (2010), Tonga (2011), Cook Islands (2012), Vanuatu (2013) in partnership with ICHCAP, Category II Center in Rep. of Korea.

Regional Cooperation in the Pacific

The Pacific region has been developing Pacific Register of Qualifications and Standards (PRQS) as collaborative efforts of the Qualifications Authorities of Pacific islands countries. Along the same spirit of "Living Human Treasures System", this aims at developing standards to recognize Traditional Knowledge and Skills (TKS) of individuals who obtained TKS mainly through non-formal education.  

International Cooperation

The following two ICH elements, which were former Masterpieces, are now integrated in the ICH Representative List established by the ICH Convention;

The Lakalaka, Dances and Sung Speeches of Tonga

Vanuatu Sand Drawings

Further Reading

Australia: Ensuring Respect for Customary Practices concerning Access to ICH through a Code of Ethics

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), based in Canberra, Australia, aims to affirm and raise awareness among all Australians, and peoople of other nations, of the richness and diversity of Australian Indigenous cultures and histories by encouraging research, publications and documentation.  It also aims to encourage understanding and information exchange about Australian Indigenous cultures within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies.  It maintain a cultural resorce collection consisting of materials relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies. AIATSIS has developed a code of ethics for researchers and adopted a set of Protocols for ensuring indigenous control over access to sensitive items submitted to the collections. The Protocols are intended to guide libraries, archives and information services in appropriate ways to interact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to handle materials with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content.  AITSIS makes it a condition of use of its online catalogue that users ensure that an disclosure of the informaion contained in this catalogue is consistent with the views and sensitivies of relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  This includes: Languages: Users are warned that there may be expressions and descriptions which may be culturally sensitive and which might not normally be used in certain public or community contexts.  Deceased Persons: Users of this catalogue should be aware that, in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, seeing images of deceased persons in photographs, films and books or hearing them in recordings etc. may cause sadness or distress and in some cases, offend against strongly held cultural prohibitions.  Access Conditions: Materials included in this catalogue may be subject to access conditions imposed by indigenous communities and/or depositors.  Users are advised that access to some materials may be subject to these terms and conditions which the Insitute is required to maintain.      

Australia: A Solution to a Conflict Between Intellectual Property Law and Customary Law

The Wik community participates, with various other communities in the Laura Aboriginal Dance and Cultural Festival, a biannual celebration of Indigenous Australian song, dance and music. However, in 1998, it was revealed that certain images of dancers from the Wik community taken while they were performing at the Festival were being reproduced commercially without their permission.  Photographs were available on CDs, postcards and other products.  Since, according to Wik customary law, these images are only suitable for reproduction with the permission of specific individuals - senior custodians or elders - the reproductions were deemed to be culturally offensive.  According to Molly Torsen and Jane Anderson: Under Australian copyright law, like most copyright laws, the copyright in the images of the dancers is vested in the photographer (who is the author for copyright purposes).  Had the dancers known this, they would not have allowed any photography during the performance or would have reconsidered performing at the Festival.  This highlights the need to provide information to traditional bearers about the range of rights that may exist in a performane and,when a performance is documented, the performers themselves need access to information about IP rights in order to make informed decisions.  Since 1989, the organizers of the Laura Festival have adopted a written agreement concernin all photography and filming at the Festival.  The agreement contains terms requiring that consent be obtained from the performers and that certain conditions for control of commercial photgraphy be followed.  Approved photographer sign an agreement stating that any commercial photography will be undertaken only after consent of the performers is received.

Cook Islands: Sacred Rituals of its Indigenous Population

Fiji: Effort towards ICH Inventory-Making in Fiji

Fiji: Institute of iTaukei Lnguage and Culture in Fiji, iTaukei Cosmology

PNG: Cultural Mapping Pilot Project in Papua New Guinea

PNG: Huli Warriors' Yellow Faces Sacrifice Fear

Samoa: O Le'Ava'a Liu Mumua - The Crew Who Changed into Dolphins

Samoa: Samoan Tattoos Leave Indelible Global Impact

Samoa: Samoan Youth Voyaging

Samoa: Women Weaving Traditions into Samoan Life

Solomon Islands:"We've made it and made it in style - The 11th Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands"

Tonga: Traditional Farming Systems

Tonga: Traditional Mosikaka Weaving

PIMA: Working Together, Preserving, Celebrating, and Nurturing the Heritage of Peoples in the Pacific

SPC: Pacific Intangible Cultural Heritage Mapping Toolkit

Ms Farida Shaheed (UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights): Cultural Heritage as a Human Right

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