22.11.2011 - UNESCOPRESS

Director-General cautions against excess number of nominations at opening of Intangible Heritage Committee in Bali

© UNESCO/Cynthia Guttman - Director-General and Indonesia's Minister of Education and Culture Mr Mohammad Nuh award two students with certificates recognizing the contribution of over 500 community workers to the clean-up of Borobudur, 19 November 2011.

“The Intangible Heritage Convention is an opportunity to discover living cultural expressions from across the world,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. However she warned that “the Convention may become the victim of its own success”.

Irina Bokova was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Sixth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage in Bali (Indonesia) today. Also present were the Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture Mohammad Nuh, the Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono, and the President of the General Assembly of States Parties to the Convention, Toshiyuko Kono.

From today through to 29 November, the Committee will examine 73 nominations for inscription on the Intangible Heritage Lists.  Intangible Cultural Heritage includes traditions or living expressions inherited from one generation to the next, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills required to produce traditional crafts

“Intangible cultural heritage is our bridge from the past to the future,” said the Director-General. “It is the precious possession of communities, groups and individuals – only they can safeguard it and pass it on to generations to come. Our role as international organizations and governments is to support these efforts in every way we can.”

Seventy nine intangible heritage dossiers will be examined during the present session. These include: 18 for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of Urgent Safeguarding; 39 for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity; 12 proposals of programmes for the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices; four for financial assistance; and six periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention.

“This is an unmanageable work load,” the Director-General said, “and is, inevitably, unsatisfactory for States Parties and the communities whose intangible heritage is concerned. They will be disappointed if the Convention is unable to meet their expectations.”

“States must now show restraint and everybody must understand that the system has reached, or even gone beyond, its own limits,” she continued. A maximum of about 60 nominations only could be treated in each session under the present conditions, she added. Irina Bokova also stated that inscriptions had to be more geographically diverse for the Convention to remain credible.

At present, the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of Urgent Safeguarding includes 16 items in nine countries. The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has 213 items in 68 countries.

The Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 2003 and now includes 137 States Parties. Only those countries that have ratified the Convention are eligible to present items for inscription on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. 

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage has 24 representatives of UNESCO Member States, elected for a term of four years. Half the Committee is renewed every two years.


The entire session of the Committee is webcast here.

Information regarding all the nominations and experts’ recommendations can also be found on that website.

Follow the session via Twitter and Facebook.

TV broadcasters can download footage here.

Media Contacts:

In Bali :

Rasul Samadov

r.samadov(at)unesco.org; +62 812 46 57 89 47

Pierre Beaulne


In Paris :

Isabelle Le Fournis

i.le-fournis(at)unesco.org; +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 48

Broadcast media:

Carole Darmouni

c.darmouni(at)unesco.org; +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 38

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