EXAMINATION OF THE REPORTS OF STATES PARTIES ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CONVENTION AND ON THE CURRENT STATUS OF ELEMENTS INSCRIBED ON THE REPRESENTATIVE LIST OF THE INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF HUMANITY
Decision 9.COM 5.a
25.The Chairperson turned to point 5.a, inviting Mr Frank Proschan from the Secretariat to present this item.
26.Mr Proschanexplained that the task of the Committee was to examine 27 periodic reports submitted by States Parties during the 2014 reporting cycle, and to provide its own synthetic report on those reports to the General Assembly. The Annex to document 5.a constituted a proposed synthetic text of the Committee’s report to the General Assembly, and provided a general overview of the 2014 periodic reports, as well as the measures taken by the various reporting States to implement the Convention. The table in paragraph 7 of the Annex showed the status of the 56 States that were expected to report in 2014, the year in which the State was intended to report, the cycle in which they did report if they submitted a draft, and finally if the document was completed in the present cycle. Mr Proschan further explained that in many cases, the States submitted a report, the Secretariat provided feedback to improve the report, but in a certain number of cases the State was unable to make the necessary revisions before the deadline. For example, Albania’s report – one of the 27 reports under examination in the present session – had been originally submitted in 2013, but in view of the amendments suggested by the Secretariat, the State Party preferred to present its report in 2014. It was noted that 11 States were one year overdue, 14 States were two years overdue, 3 States were three years overdue, and one State was now four years overdue with its report. As this was the fourth reporting cycle, and in order to avoid the very repetitive annual overviews, the Secretariat had provided in Part III of the Annex an in-depth and cumulative analysis of inventorying-making. The Secretariat had chosen to focus the bulk of the synthetic report this year on this topic rather than trying to treat the range of topics that were covered by the States in their reports. This kind of in-depth focus on a specific topic would also be proposed for each future reporting cycle, while the overview would cover all the topics in the reports.
27.Mr Proschan remarked that in reading the periodic reports it was clear that the establishment of ICH inventories remained the top priority in many countries, and was one of the most visible results of the implementation of the Convention. The synthetic report thus devoted paragraphs 40–82 to providing a detailed survey of the practices of States in this respect. It was also clear that while each State was responsible for elaborating one or more inventories in a manner befitting its own situation, there was nevertheless much to be learnt from comparing the experience of these 58 States since the beginning of the periodic reporting cycle. The Annex also included an overview of the status of elements inscribed on the Representative List, and it was interesting to note the diversity of forms and domains in these 66 elements covered by the reports. The draft decision proposed by the Secretariat thus emphasized certain general trends, and addressed certain topics raised in the final section of the Annex, which could perhaps receive greater attention from submitting States and from the Committee in future reporting cycles. Particularly noteworthy was the inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in development strategies, especially in rural development programmes and funds, which the Committee might wish to give greater attention to in subsequent cycles. The results of the in-depth analysis on inventorying-making were also reflected in paragraph 10 of the draft decision, which took note of the substantial progress achieved by States in meeting their inventory obligations. Paragraph 8 of the draft decision reiterated the Committee’s encouragement to States to actively involve the communities when preparing their reports, as well as to include information provided by NGOs: the consequence of Decision 8.COM 5.c.1 in 2013. Finally, paragraph 12 proposed that the specific thematic focus in the overview, to be prepared by the Secretariat in the 2015 cycle, should be on transmission and education.
28.Thanking Mr Proschan, the Chairpersonopened the floor for comments.
29.The delegation of Latvia expressed its sincere appreciation of the work of the Secretariat for providing an informative overview and specific analysis of different experiences of States Parties, as well as the in-depth study on inventory-making. It also welcomed the proposal of the Secretariat to decide on particular themes, and thus supported the proposed decision to report on transmission and education in the next cycle. It further welcomed greater reflection on the possible themes to be chosen for further cycles, as States Parties might be expected to take these into account when drafting their reports, as mentioned in paragraph 4. Keeping in mind that the reports were significant sources of information for various stakeholders worldwide, and also knowing that these reports were only expected every six years, the delegation believed that the choice of themes would only serve as an orientation for the Secretariat’s work, while the reports of the States Parties were expected to equally cover the various aspects in the implementation of the Convention. It also wished to highlight the conclusion in paragraph 97 that sought the General Assembly’s attention in its statement that safeguarding intangible cultural heritage was not only an issue of rural development programmes, but could also contribute to the development of disadvantaged urban communities. Respecting that intangible cultural heritage may be of importance for various urban communities, whatever their characteristics, the delegation felt that unless there was a particular clarification in this respect, the conclusion should be broader and more inclusive, while discussing urban communities in general. The delegation’s final observation concerned paragraph 98 on the weakening of informal modes of transmission, including within families, adding that this conclusion was very important and should be taken into account in the Committee’s further work, while encouraging various forms of transmission and safeguarding plans.
30.The delegation of Azerbaijan [observer] wished to comment on the periodic report submitted by the Republic of Armenia, considered to contain a number of highly sensitive issues concerning the communities and the government of Azerbaijan. It was said to contain provocative elements of a political nature that contradicted the spirit of the Convention and the principles of mutual respect and understanding among communities. Namely, there were references to internationally recognized territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which had been occupied by Armenia for more than 20 years and is de facto controlled by separatist regimes. There were also provocative references to other territories of Azerbaijan in the report, which referred to safeguarding measures of the element in Nakhchivan and Julfa, both Azerbaijani territories, and thus a violation of Article 11 of the Convention, as well as Decision 8.COM 6.a adopted in 2013. The delegation felt that this was an attempt to push the political agenda through the culture mechanisms of UNESCO, adding that this provocation would ultimately fail. It strongly believed that the Convention could neither be used for political purposes nor serve as an instrument of international disputes or territorial claims. On the contrary, the Convention promoted dialogue, social cohesion and mutual respect, and it united communities rather than creating dividing lines. It therefore regretted that instead of using the Convention as a tool to promote a culture of peace and intercultural dialogue, Armenia instigated inter-ethnic tension. Moreover, it was unfortunate that this was not the first time Azerbaijan had faced this situation. In 2010, there were identical provocative references in the nomination submitted by Armenia, but thanks to the mediation of the Secretary of the Convention, a consensus had been reached and the controversial elements in question were removed from the nomination. Unfortunately, this consensus was not respected by Armenia and was made clear in the letter by the Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan sent to the Director-General of UNESCO on 30 October 2014. In this letter, the Minister clearly expressed the government’s position and asked that the Bureau of the Director-General and the Secretariat to negotiate with Armenia to delete the references from the report. The delegation thus sought a response from the Secretariat about the outcome of these negotiations. In any case, it urged the Committee to take a principled stance on this very important issue, which – in its opinion – discredited the Convention.
31.The delegation of the Congo thanked the Chairperson for his chairmanship, congratulating the Secretariat, and the Secretary in particular, for the good preparatory work and good documentation. The delegation remarked that Congo unfortunately still had no elements inscribed despite two unsuccessful attempts. Nevertheless, it commended the States for their reports, as it provided instruction to those still learning. For this reason, it insisted on paragraph 95 of the document and the ‘training in intangible cultural heritage management’, which was deemed very important, as it would lead to more nominations. Training was key and the fact that the delegation had failed twice was due to not having had the necessary training. However, the document provided the necessary elements to allow it to submit nominations, which would soon come.
32.The delegation of Armenia [observer] congratulated the Chairperson and the Secretariat for the wonderful preparations of the meeting. It regretted the much politicized statement by Azerbaijan with regard to its national report, insisting that it did not contain any political statements. On the contrary, the letter sent by the Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan was itself politicized and referred to political issues that were unrelated to Armenia’s report. The delegation drew the Committee’s attention to the mention of duduk festivals in the letter that were organized in Artsakh in Armenia, as well as Amsterdam, Venice, London, the United States, the Russian Federation, and in other parts of the world, adding that no other country had issues with the organization of these festivals of duduk music organized by Armenia. For this reason, it did not see a problem in organizing and reporting on the duduk music festival in its national report, nor did it see any link between the political issues cited in the Ministry’s letter and raising these same political issues here at UNESCO, while at the same time calling upon UNESCO to ensure a culture of unity and not to politicize an agenda. With regard to the issue of Khachkars being exclusively a phenomenon of the Armenian culture, and also the issue of the destruction of Armenian cross-stones in the cemetery in Baku, the delegation explained that the film referred to in the national report was produced by a reputable French scientist, historian and art critic who supported the film-making process with professional accounts. The film also contained episodes calling for the preservation of cross-stones, while referring to the damage of Armenian cross-stones and cemeteries by Baku in Nakhchivan. The delegation had nothing to add if the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan was against the protection by its government of the Khachkars in Nakhchivan, only that it wished to remind the Committee of Resolution 5 adopted at the 16th session of the General Assembly of ICOMOS in 2008 on ‘The destruction of the historic cemetery of Jugha (Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan)’. This referred to the documented destruction of the Armenian cross-stones in the cemetery of Jugha. The delegation therefore failed to understand why Azerbaijan raised politically sensitive issues about a report that did not contain anything political nor sensitive, but was simply a report of the work organized and carried out on Armenian elements of which it is the bearer, adding that duduk and the cross-stone art was not limited to its national borders, and that it therefore had the right to advocate the art of duduk and the art of cross-stones all over the world.
33.The delegation of Uganda congratulated the Chairperson and the Secretariat for the wonderful organization and its support to States Parties participating in this important meeting. It remarked on the role of community involvement in the drafting of the reports, and appreciated that the issues they raised should be included in the reports, adding that Uganda was expected to submit its report in the coming year. The delegation also believed that the role of communities and the issues emerging from this report would guide Uganda in improving its report. With regard to the issue of States failing to submit their reports, it asked that UNESCO find creative ways to help States in this challenging exercise.
34.The delegation of Turkey expressed its full confidence in the Chairperson’s able guidance that would lead to fruitful, harmonious and results-oriented discussions. It congratulated the States Parties on presenting their reports, and especially those that had made a special effort to submit their reports for the first time. This exercise provided a valuable opportunity for States Parties to assess their own progress in implementing the Convention, and to familiarize themselves with its terminology and practical methods. It also commended the Secretariat, the Secretary, and the new Assistant Director-General for Culture for their efforts, as well as the comprehensive overview of the submitted reports. The report indicated that 26 States Parties have yet to submit reports, which reflected the need for capacity-building in the States concerned, as well as the need among certain States for information and practical advice in drafting their reports, which could be provided by exchanging experiences with other States. As a Member of the Committee, the delegation reiterated its commitment to sharing experiences and to providing guidance, even training, to countries in need whenever possible. It therefore encouraged those States Parties in need to make contact through their delegations or National Commissions, and it welcomed States Parties to continue developing the legislative context required for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. It was noted that several countries had identified the potential of intangible cultural heritage as a tool for ensuring sustainable development, and that safeguarding intangible cultural heritage was increasingly integrated into planning and development programmes of these States Parties, a welcome development. The delegation further remarked that education was an important tool to promote intangible cultural heritage so as to balance the informal modes of learning and practical issues. It was also pleased to note that identifying and documenting the various aspects of intangible cultural heritage remained a top priority for many countries, including its own. However, it was apparent that the work was far from complete as many countries lacked the experience or linguistic proficiency to deal with the issues of the Convention. The delegation therefore encouraged the Secretariat to provide guidance in this regard to States in using language in their reporting mechanisms that was in conformity with the Convention and the other organs of the United Nations. It also encouraged States Parties to refrain from reporting, including in their national reports, on issues, concepts and areas beyond their national territories, which would be counter-productive in terms of the implementation of the Convention. Having carefully listened to the statements by Azerbaijan and Armenia, it believed that the Secretariat’s drafting skills would be able to provide a compromise that would remove controversial and contradictory language from the report.
35.The delegation of Republic of Koreacongratulated the Chairperson on his chairmanship, commending him on his valuable contribution. It also extended its deep gratitude to the Secretariat and the Secretary for the successful preparation of the meeting. It spoke of how transmission and education provided the core of safeguarding intangible heritage, and was thus in full agreement with the proposal of these themes in the coming cycle. With regard to the periodic reporting, the delegation thanked the States Parties that had submitted their reports this year, and appreciated the Secretariat’s hard work in preparing its own report, as well its examination of the reports by the States. Taking note of the fact that the periodic reports were an obligation shared by all States Parties, as they served as an effective tool for sharing best practices of safeguarding intangible heritage, the delegation was concerned that some reports were overdue. In this regard, it encouraged those States Parties with overdue reports to submit them as early as possible. It was also noted that State Parties with overdue reports were geographically scattered across the world, adding that this issue had to be addressed globally and in a holistic manner. It therefore requested that the Secretariat consider ways to improve the current situation by taking advantage of field offices and other relevant organizations.
36.Thanking the Chairperson for the opportunity to take the floor, the delegation of Belize [observer] spoke of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean that introduced an initiative in 2012 to support the implement the Convention at the national level in three Caribbean States: Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In this regard, it wished to thank the government of Japan for funding this initiative, and UNESCO’s Cluster Office for taking the initiative to support the State’s efforts to implement the Convention. With respect to this exercise in Belize, the delegation reiterated the importance for future UNESCO efforts and for other countries to consider the importance of capacity-building so that it was fully integrated into any national effort in the implementation of the Convention and the inventorying of elements within those particular States. This was especially true for small States where there was always a lack of human resources, though it might also be true for bigger States. It was noted that the report had cited this problem across the board, whether capacity was available within academic institutions, NGOs or governmental levels, and not at the community level for example or vice versa. Hence the importance of integrating capacity-building into national efforts. It also wished to emphasize, and this was found to be very effective, the important role played by the media in the implementation of the Convention at national level, and as such they should proactively involved in highlighting elements within their territory and region. This had been true for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, contributing to the great strides made since 2012. The delegation concluded by looking forward to collaborating with other States within the region.
37.The delegation of Brazil congratulated the Chairperson on his election, as well as the Secretariat for its very important work. It spoke of the usefulness of the reporting mechanism from the Brazilian perspective, whose work in elaborating the report helped to better organize its internal policies, as well as verify the work being carried out in implementing the Convention. The delegation suggested that the category 2 centres could possibly be more involved in the capacity-building exercise. For instance, in the exchange of best practices, especially as States still appeared to be working in an isolated manner. Their involvement would therefore consolidate efforts and improve this useful work.
38.The delegation of Switzerland[observer] wished the Committee success in its work, commending the Secretariat for the high quality of its work. It spoke of the periodic reporting exercise as an important mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Convention, while serving to share good practices, as well as a means of taking stock of the measures taken by States Parties on their territory and in international cooperation. It was noted that Switzerland had ratified the Convention in 2008, and as such would present to UNESCO its first periodic report on 15 December 2014. It wished to emphasize two specific traits that marked the writing of its report. First, it would include an annex to reflect the views of the tradition bearers from civil society on the implementation of the Convention; the result of directly associating the communities, groups and individuals concerned with the realization of the first report. However, it was difficult to directly integrate the comments of civil society in the form given the technical nature of the document. For this reason, the annex contained general comments on the implementation of the Convention in Switzerland. Thus, it considered it worthwhile to reflect on how to adapt the forms with the need to dialogue with civil society. The second notable aspect of the first Swiss report was the lack of elements inscribed on the various Lists of the Convention. Indeed, during this first implementation phase, efforts were focused on achieving a documented first national inventory, a List of Living Traditions in Switzerland. Conducted between 2008 and 2012, this work required several years of research and analysis in consultation with the regions and civil society. Switzerland therefore has the intention to present future nominations and it informed the Committee that it had adopted a proposal comprising a list of eight nominations to be submitted in the coming years. The use of an indicative list of nominations reflected many opinions. Firstly, to continue the path of implementation of the Convention by involving the many different regions of the country, civil society, and the bearers in drafting the nomination, as was the case throughout the inventorying process. Followed by the desire to reflect the intrinsic diversity of the different nominations concerned. The delegation spoke of its desire to make known its nomination intentions to other States Parties, especially for the sake of communities, groups and individuals, some of whom were already associated with the project. Finally, a booklet in French and English was available in the entrance hall with more details on this approach.
39.The Chairperson noted that Azerbaijan wished to take the floor again, but instead proposed to suspend item 5.a so that consultations between Azerbaijan and Armenia could take place and thus reach a solution, assisted by Turkey as proposed. With no objections, the Chairperson turned to item 5.b.