"We share the same vision, we share the same path", declares Minister of Culture of China on 10th anniversary of UNESCO's Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Director-General, Irina Bokova, marked the 10th anniversary of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention at the Chengdu International Conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage.
This took place in the context of the 4th International Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival on 15 June in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Cai Wu, Minister of Culture of China, Ms. Alissandra Cummins, Chairperson of UNESCO's Executive Board, Mr. Wei Hong, Governor of the Sichuan Provincial People's Government, Mr. Ge Honglin, Major of Chengdu, and senior officials of the Sichuan Province.
"China played a very constructive role in framing the ground-breaking concept of intangible cultural heritage and in giving it such a vivid incarnation through the Intangible Cultural Heritage Park," declared Irina Bokova.
From 14 to 16 June 2013, some 400 experts came together in Chengdu, to attend a conference on the achievements and challenges of the first decade of the Convention and on its opportunities and perspectives for coming decades.
"We believe intangible cultural heritage is a source of creativity, a force for renewal and mobilization-- it is one of our strongest assets to build the future we want for all," pursued Irina Bokova.
The first decade of the Convention saw its far-reaching impact throughout the world, among its 153 States Parties and among States not yet party to the Convention. The Convention has fundamentally reconfigured the relations between the bearers and practitioners of intangible cultural heritage and the public authorities, experts and institutions involved in its safeguarding. By emphasizing the active agency of communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals, and their indispensable role in recognizing their own intangible heritage and taking responsibility for its safeguarding, the Convention has established a fundamentally new paradigm.
"There is wide consensus that intangible cultural heritage is part and parcel of sustaining the world's cultural diversity" stated Minister Cai Wu. "It is also increasingly widely recognized that culture is an important driver of progress, social and economic development across the world, that is why we support your advocacy in the context of the post-2015 global agenda", added the Minister.
The participants called upon the international community to renew its commitment to the Convention’s fundamental premise that intangible cultural heritage is a guarantee of sustainable development. As the world shapes the post-2015 agenda for sustainable development, the importance of intangible heritage in countless domains of human life must be acknowledged.
The conference also recalled the Hangzhou International Congress on the theme of "Culture: Key to Sustainable Development" held in May, in China, and endorsed its Declaration, which states: ‘Inclusive economic development should […] be achieved through activities focused on sustainably protecting, safeguarding and promoting heritage’.
The deliberations also emphasized the need for educators to focus and develop inclusive education taking into account intangible heritage, in both formal and non-formal education systems.
Presentations by practitioners and experts showcased systems of conflict prevention and dispute resolution that are embedded in intangible heritage of communities worldwide and the contribution they can bring to building and maintaining peace, a prerequisite for all sustainable development.
Similarly, the risk-mitigation provided for in intangible cultural heritage was underscored as being insufficiently acknowledged and valued.
In this context, the Director-General highlighted the intrinsic link between intangible cultural heritage and the social fabric of societies -- "intangible cultural heritage provides the thread for social inclusion, intercultural dialogue and peaceful coexistence of diverse peoples in today's multicultural societies".
Intangible cultural heritage was at the forefront of recovery efforts in Sichuan Province after the devastation of the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008.
The Director-General expressed her sincere condolences to the senior officials and the people of Sichuan for the losses suffered in the Lushan earthquake this past April, stressing that intangible heritage would once again prove a "vital resource for recovery and for healing the wounds of affected populations".
The Minister stressed that the Fourth Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival (ICHF) stemmed from the national and local reconstruction efforts following the devastating earthquake in the Sichuan Province in 2008, aiming at bolstering people to stand up after the tragedy, and providing them with a sense of normalcy and continuity through engaging in the living expressions and traditions of their culture.
"Intangible cultural heritage provides evidence of the sustainability of culture through the living practices it enshrines", stated the Minister.
The importance that traditional practices concerning nature and the universe play in maintaining sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity and in helping communities to ensure food security and health were also highlighted to demonstrate the dynamic force of intangible heritage. It was also acknowledged as providing a reservoir of resources and responses to global climate change.
During her visit, the Director-General also held bilateral meetings respectively with the Minister of Culture, H.E. Mr. Cai Wu, and senior officials of the Sichuan Provincial Committee.
Minister Cai Wu praised UNESCO's leading role in the UN in promoting the fundamental role of culture, "setting standards and benchmarks" in this area.
"Culture is a unique and irreplaceable factor in development processes", he added.
He shared China's focused cultural policy in this area, enshrined in National Cultural Development.
The Minister reiterated his country's commitment to stand by UNESCO in the face of current financial constraints, acting as a "responsible and constructive partner", and referred to a popular Chinese saying "the fast train must run on fast rails".
Minister Cai Wu outlined the 4 goals of his mandate as Culture Minister: (i) ensuring the equitable distribution of public cultural services throughout the country; (ii) making cultural industries a powerful engine of national sustainable development and economic growth; (iii)making cultural life the cement of social inclusion and civic development; and (iv) making culture an integral dimension of leaders' performance.
Irina Bokova praised the Provincial Authorities for Chengdu, an active member of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network, world renowned for its gastronomy.
The Director-General was presented with the main axes of Sichuan's strategy in the realm of intangible cultural heritage resting on 3 main pillars: the salvaging of endangered practices; a holistic approach to preserving the environment; and public financial support to practitioners in order to support their production from which they can benefit economically. "Valuing and supporting practices is ensuring their safeguarding" it was declared.
In ending, the Director-General, conveyed the invitation to the Minister for China to attend the ECOSOC Ministerial Round-Table on Culture and Innovation in the post-2015 development agenda, in Geneva this July, in order to pursue efforts to inscribe "culture as a driver of sustainable development, social cohesion and human growth"
"As we are framing the post-2015 global development agenda, it is crucial that culture be fully acknowledged and integrated as an indispensable enabler of the sustainability of development, for it brings about equity, social justice and economic growth -- we must acknowledge the value of cultural identities in their rich diversity to strengthen the social fabric of societies in a globalized world".
While in Chengdu, the Director-General also met with national and local media, notably China Daily, CCTV, Xinhua News Agency, China Radio International (CRI), Sichuan Daily, Chengdu Daily, and Chengdu TV.
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