Communities, government and local cultural experts key in the successful implementation of the 2003 Convention on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage
13-17 August 2012, Sunway Hotel, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
In the framework of UNESCO’s work in safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) through national capacity-building, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in cooperation with UNESCO Phnom Penh Office, organized a national workshop on the implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage from 13-17 August 2012 in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia is a country extremely rich in intangible cultural heritage. According to the preliminary inventory of intangible cultural heritage of Cambodia established in 2004, many elements of Cambodia’s rich living heritage are in danger of disappearing due to long-lasting political conflicts, declining number of performers and cultural influences from outside the country. Since ratifying the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003, the Cambodian government has demonstrated a strong commitment to define its intangible cultural heritage and to preserve it for the future generation. UNESCO World Heritage Committee listed the Royal Ballet in November 2003 and Lkhoan Sbek Thom, the big shadow puppet, in November 2005.
Notable trainers at the Workshop included Ms. Suzanne Ogge and Mr. Rahul Goswami, regional experts of Intangible Cultural Heritage from Australia and India respectively. A diverse and dynamic group of trainees, which consisted of directors from the Provincial Departments of Culture and Fine Arts from 24 Cambodian provinces, representatives working for local NGOs, and high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, participated in this workshop to better understand how to effectively implement the UNESCO Convention.
Throughout the discussions that unfolded, participants’ understanding of Cambodian Living Heritage was strengthened. The major aspects of the Convention such as key concepts of ICH, the importance of awareness-raising of intangible heritage in Cambodia, and the need to identify and document this heritage were highlighted and placed in the Cambodian context. At the opening ceremony, Ms. Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO Representative in Cambodia said, “As we all know that Cambodia has been recognized as a very rich country of heritage, namely, Tangible, Intangible and Underwater Heritage. As a result, Cambodia has been becoming one of the most attractive touristic destinations countries in the region and in the world. This trend can have serious impacts on Cambodian Heritage. That is the reason for which, UNESCO Phnom Penh Office, in close collaboration with Cambodian related institutions, especially the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, have been intensively working, not only on the preservation, but also the promotion of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Cambodia.”
Collaboratively, the participants explored the factors that threatened Cambodian intangible heritage such as environmental problems, poverty, and migration, and discussed ways to support the sustainable development of Cambodian cultural traditions so that they could continue to exist for future generations. The participants further identified that the organic interplay of non-governmental organizations, local communities and practitioners were crucial in the successful implementation of the Convention.
After the success of this workshop, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in close collaboration with UNESCO Phnom Penh Office, will organize two national workshops this coming year on community-based inventorying of intangible cultural heritage and preparing nominations for the intangible heritage list.