98.Resuming his role, the Chairperson continued with the unfinished agenda item 6, adding that four countries: Tunisia, Morocco [later withdrew], Nepal and Algeria still wished to speak, after which the Secretary would answer questions.
99.The delegation of Tunisia endorsed the comments made by previous delegations in expressing its appreciation of the information in the report on the activities of the Secretariat. In this respect, it commended the efforts made to promote capacities and competences for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. Tunisia – as a beneficiary – wished to thank Norway for its significant help in its programme in Tunisia. The delegation emphasized the need for coordination of activities between the different regional centres to establish synergies and to submit reports periodically that so that centres could benefit from the experience of other centres.
100.The delegation of Nepal [observer] thanked the Secretariat for the meeting, adding that Nepal was a State Party to the Convention since 2010. Since then it had completed three capacity-building workshops in close cooperation with the UNESCO Kathmandu office, with Japan providing the financial support. It thus wished to offer sincere thanks to Japan, hoping for long lasting results in its activities. The delegation informed the Committee that 25 districts had completed their inventory out of 75 districts, whose inventorying processes would be continued into the future. This would be carried out with the concerned authority in which intangible cultural heritage activities in Nepal had been consolidated. Nepal was planning to submit elements to the Representative List in 2016, and another important initative included the bilateral agreement with the SAARC countries. For example, the government of Nepal was going to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of India, together with Nakti Sangeetha Akademi, as well as with other countries. Nepal thus took intangible cultural heritage activities seriously.
101.The delegation of Algeria joined the other delegations in congratulating the Chairperson and the Bureau for the excellent conduct of the proceedings. It also wished to congratulate the Secretariat for the skill and flair shown in the documentation of the different sessions. With regard to the important issue of category 2 centres, the delegation spoke of the honour for Algeria to host a centre dedicated to the intangible cultural heritage in Africa. It was currently implementing the national mechanisms necessary for its operation, but it was already able to host a meeting of African experts in Algiers in 2015 to discuss inventories and all other matters that UNESCO considered pertinent.
102.The Chairperson invited the Secretary to respond to the questions.
103.The Secretary began by thanking all those who expressed encouragement to the Secretariat and to the continuation of the capacity-building programme. The Committee’s appreciation of the quality of the documents was also appreciated, especially as they took a lot of time to write, and contributed to ‘the workload of the Secretariat’. The Secretary considered that the documents were tools for the good governance of the Convention, enabling the Committee to work in complete transparency with all the relevant information required for its decision-making, and hence the care and attention afforded to the treatment of all the documents. The Secretary was particularly pleased to note that the capacity-building programme had the support not only of the recipient countries but also the donor countries, and she hoped that this would compel donors to continue supporting the programme. She also confirmed that the Secretariat fully understood the issues and importance of continuing its efforts on providing technical assistance in policy and legislation, and that it placed special emphasis in this regard in all new programmes launched in various countries. Responding to the questions raised, the Secretary referred to the suggestion by Latvia and the Republic of Korea that wished to see the work of the field offices reflected in the Secretariat’s report, as well as greater involvement of the field offices in the implementation of capacity-building. The Secretary explained that UNESCO was indivisible in that the Secretariat also included the UNESCO Field Offices. Moreover, the field offices implemented ninety-nine per cent of the capacity-building activities that were reflected in the report. Furthermore, it was difficult to implicate them even more given that they were already fully involved in the work of the Convention. For example, Mr Tim Curtis from the Bangkok Field Office coordinated all the capacity-building activities in the Asia-Pacific region, so much so that colleagues from other conventions may have found the time disproportionate compared to time spent on their activities. With regard to the question of the involvement of other stakeholders and other partners, in particular the UNESCO Chairs and academia, as mentioned by Latvia and Turkey, the Secretary concurred that this was indeed one of the fields worth exploring. However, the attribution of a status of UNESCO Chair alone was not enough. Unfortunately, the Secretariat did not have enough time to invest in the dialogue required with the academic world, even though UNESCO Chairs, and other academic Chairs, could effectively contribute. The Secretary conceded that there were many basic tasks that the Secretariat failed to do owing to a lack of time, having to concentrate its efforts to tackle the essential. Thus, the constellation of additional partners was considered a little less important than, for example, the organization of annual meetings of the Committee. Moreover, the Committee was reminded that the Executive Board continued to caution the use of UNESCO’s name, as there was a reputation risk, such that there was a need for an important process of control for extending the constellation of partners, which involved a lot of work.
104.The Secretary then turned to the question of category 2 centres, which she recalled was a very generous expression of the will of a State to make resources available in the country to serve a region in line with UNESCO’s objectives. It was noted that there were eight countries that had committed human and institutional resources to help UNESCO fulfil its mission in the field of intangible cultural heritage. The reality was that considerable work had already been undertaken, as mentioned by Bulgaria, to precisely align the work of these centres so as to help UNESCO achieve its results. However, the work produced by the centres was not yet fully aligned with the expected results of UNESCO in the area of intangible cultural heritage as approved by the General Conference. The Secretary recognized that it was a big challenge, but that it was an investment for the future because it was obvious that the centres at full functional capacity would be able to help achieve the expected results. But for now, there was a phase of adaptation, although some centres were more advanced than others. As a way of an example, the Secretary explained that Mr Tim Curtis spent much of his time working with the four centres in Asia-Pacific, and it was calculated that the time spent by the UNESCO Secretariat to support the category 2 centres amounted to approximately US$45,000 per centre per biennium, or US$315,000 per biennium, only in the field of intangible cultural heritage, though this was acknowledged to be an important investment. The goal however was to inverse the trend, with the centres supporting the Secretariat in its work.
105.The Secretary then turned to a question posed by Namibia regarding the added value of the Conventions Common Services Team, explaining that for the moment it had a putative value, as the platform was only set up in July 2014. Moreover, some of the staff had no proven experience in the Convention mechanisms and therefore there was a period of on-the-spot training at a time when the Secretariat’s workload should have been reduced. In the organization of the present session, the newly appointed staff to the CCS team was not necessarily accustomed to the working methods of the Convention. Thus, the evaluation could only come later once the system was comfortably in place, only then could it be seen whether the process improved the work situation. In response to the question by Saint Lucia on the time spent by the Secretariat at Headquarters on capacity-building compared to the time spent on nominations, the Secretary replied that about 20 per cent of the time was spent on capacity-building and 80 per cent on statutory processes such as the Lists, the organization of meetings, the statutory meeting documents, NGO reports, and so on. This did not take into account the work carried out by colleagues in the field, who work on the culture programme as a whole, and not just the 2003 Convention, and therefore were not considered full-time members of the team. It was clear that a lot of time, about 50 per cent, was spent on the Lists. Moreover, the Members of the Subsidiary Body acknowledged the amount of work invested by the Secretariat in the Representative List, not only in the provision of documents but also in terms of facilitating the work of the Subsidiary Body, i.e. writing summaries, reports, and so on.
106.The Secretary then turned to another question by Namibia that expressed a concern in the fact that the Secretariat was already late in processing the nominations in 2015 (around 60 per cent treated), when they should have been dealt with by late June. So, what was the solution? And what were the risks? The Secretary was clear that the risk was a general collapse of the system, as currently it was not sustainable, adding that it would likely happen soon. What were the solutions? The Secretary replied that they were numerous, but the problem lay in the fact that choices had to be made, and that so far, despite considering possible solutions, it was eventually decided that everything should remain, and that was the problem. The problem was not due to a single element, but the sum of all the elements that rendered the system unsustainable. The Secretariat continued its work but, under the present circumstances, it would eventually work less well or not at all. One hypothetical solution would be an increase in human resources, however, given the current situation, this was unlikely because the Secretariat would have to double in number to cope with the current workload. Other solutions include: i) to skip a cycle of nominations, and decide to inscribe every two years so that the backlog could be absorbed; ii) cancel activities such as capacity-building, which would alleviate 20 per cent of the Secretariat’s workload at Headquarters; iii) do away with periodic reports should States Parties not attach much importance to the way other States conducted their activities, as this required a lot of work in terms of providing feedback and the analysis of the reports; iv) NGO accreditation was also said to be time-consuming, with 180 accredited NGOs expected to draft a report every four years on their work, which would need to be analysed; v) decide to conduct advisory body meetings by e-mail in place of face-to-face meetings twice or three times a year; vi) cease expert meetings; vii) reduce the number of nominations, which had decreased from 60 to 50, but could drop further to 30 nominations. In short, there were a multitude of solutions that were in the hands of the Committee, and which could alleviate the current situation, which was clearly untenable.
107.The delegation of Samoa [observer] thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to speak and echo the other States Parties in thanking UNESCO, particularly the Secretariat for its excellent efforts in safeguarding the world’s intangible cultural heritage. The delegation spoke of Samoa’s recent ratification of the Convention in 2013, since then a few workshops had taken place to build capacities among people at the different levels, from grassroots to executive. It thanked Japan for the financial assistance that enabled the capacity-building workshops to take place, as well as UNESCO, and other donors and partners that had assisted Samoa in its request for capacity-building, adding that it looked forward to collaborating further with the Secretariat in this regard.
108.The delegation of Ethiopia congratulated the Chairperson and the Secretariat for their excellent work so far, which would enable the Committee to lead fruitful deliberations in the coming days. As a new Member to the Committee, it understood the privilege, adding that it would commit to the implementation of the Convention. Having ratified the Convention in 2006, Ethiopia had taken note of the spirit of the Convention, and had adopted aspects of the Convention into its cultural heritage legislation to conserve and promote its diverse cultural heritage across the Federal Regional States of Ethiopia. In fact, over the last few years, it had taken advantage of the support provided by the Secretariat and UNESCO to work on its intangible cultural heritage inventory, and had already succeeded with 95 per cent of its target. The delegation appreciated the Committee’s decision in 2013 to inscribe its element3, which it considered as a pioneer inscription that had clearly inspired its people and helped it to better understand the need to promote the Convention nationwide. It concurred with many of the interventions regarding the need for category 2 centres and the boosted efforts of the Secretariat to engage in capacity-building efforts. As development and globalization put pressure on indigenous intangible cultural heritage, it commended the remarks that referred to the practice of the spirit of the Convention, and thus the support of the Secretariat and UNESCO on capacity-building deserved to be underlined.
109.The delegation of Egypt thanked the Secretary for having clearly set out the very real problems faced by the Committee that deserved to be examined closely so as to find the most viable solutions and thus fulfil the goals of the Convention. The delegation remarked that Egypt was one of the first 18 States to ratify the Convention, and now there were more than 1504 States Parties aiming to achieve the goals of the Convention, namely, the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. It believed that the Committee could not discontinue any of the activities mentioned by the Secretary, as this would have a very negative impact on the safeguarding mechanisms. It further believed that the possible solution lay in increasing the staff numbers. The increased human resources would enable the Secretariat to deal with these changes and the growing number of States Parties, which was currently very high, as well as in the evaluation and examination of the nominations. Furthermore, there was a need to increase resources without depending on donations. The donors were of course supporting some projects, but at some point there might be fewer donors, which would clearly be a problem. It suggested that the financial contributions of Member States be increased, which would provide the Committee with the material resources it needed to fulfil its mission in the best possible way. Thus, it was important to calculate the difference between what was currently available versus what was actually required, with the difference to be shared fairly among the various Member States so that there was no reliance on donors. Of course, the delegation was very grateful to the donors and hoped that donations would continue, but at the same time, additional resources should be divided among the States Parties so that the Committee could deliver the expected results.
110.The delegation of Ecuador [observer] congratulated the Chairperson on the organization of this very important meeting, with special thanks to the Secretary for her frank approach regarding the financial problems faced by the Secretariat; a general problem throughout the Organization. Nevertheless, it was important to speak openly and clearly to all Member States and the Committee so as to find possible solutions, such as searching for new partners that could assist the Secretariat in its work. The delegation spoke about maintaining the current activities, but reducing the percentage of each activity, for example, reducing each of the activities by 50 per cent. It believed that the Committee should take into account the concerns of the Secretary so as to lead to a decision in this regard.
111.The delegation of Uganda appreciated the work of UNESCO, especially the Secretariat, for having compiled the report despite the challenges it faced, such as limited staff and a reduction in the Regular Programme funds. With regard to the investment in the training of trainers, and despite the fact that States had provided experts to assist UNESCO, the delegation felt that it was too expensive to invest in training when the Committee could explore the possibility of using the current trainers who had already benefitted from the capacity-building programmes, and which were greater in number than the seconded experts. It agreed with the previous speakers that had suggested that States Parties contribute a minimum amount of funds to the activities of the Convention for an amount they could afford, so as to bridge the gap in funds as a result of budget reductions. Finally, the delegation extended its appreciation of the support it had received from UNESCO, namely, in building the capacity of a number of experts in Uganda, which had helped the country in implementing the activities of the Convention.
112.The Chairperson turned to the draft decision on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, and with no comments or objections pronounced paragraphs 1–3 adopted.
113.The delegation of Turkey wished to propose a new paragraph 5, ‘Further encourages the Secretariat to cooperate more with universities, in order to facilitate the establishment of UNESCO Chairs, and to promote graduate studies in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage’.
114.The Chairperson noted that the proposed amendment by Turkey would become a new paragraph 5.
115.Referring to the amendment, the delegation of Saint Lucia proposed to replace ‘to cooperate more’ with ‘increase cooperation’ or ‘enhance cooperation’.
116.The Chairperson returned to paragraph 4 and, noting that there were no objections, pronounced it adopted. He then turned to paragraph 5 and the amendment by Turkey, amended by Saint Lucia.
117.Referring to Turkey’s proposal, the delegation of Latvia reflected on the wording concerning the UNESCO Chairs, adding that there were already established UNESCO Chairs working in the field of intangible cultural heritage. Thus, the paragraph should probably say, ‘enhance cooperation with universities and UNESCO Chairs’. Moreover, the delegation felt that the first necessity was not necessarily to establish more Chairs, especially as there were already partners to develop cooperation within the existing network, without excluding new Chairs that might likely be established.
118.The delegation of Belgium proposed to enlarge the scope of the reference to promoting studies in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage so the word ‘safeguarding’ should be chairs and not only UNESCO Chairs. It would be a good idea generally that universities set up Chairs in safeguarding intangible heritage.
119.Having listened to the proposals, the Chairperson turned to the adoption of paragraph 5, inviting the Secretary to read the proposed paragraph, as amended.
120.The Secretary understood from the interventions that the idea was not necessarily to create new Chairs but to work with existing Chairs, and not solely UNESCO Chairs who work in the field of intangible cultural heritage but also on its safeguarding. The amendment would thus read, ‘Further encourages the Secretariat to enhance cooperation with universities and UNESCO Chairs, and to promote graduate studies in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage’.
121.The delegation of Turkey had no objections to the new formulation, but it also sought to establish more UNESCO Chairs in academia, both to cooperate with universities as well as with existing Chairs.
122.The delegation of Latvia supported the proposal by Belgium to incorporate the word ‘safeguarding’ and thus ‘graduate studies in the safeguarding intangible cultural heritage’. With regard to the first part of the paragraph, it suggested that in order to maintain the reference to UNESCO Chairs, which is a specific network under UNESCO, it might read, ‘enhanced cooperation with universities, including UNESCO Chairs’. It was thus unnecessary to refer to ‘universities and chairs’, as chairs were part of the universities, adding that it would probably better read as ‘including UNESCO Chairs’, which would refer to existing or newly established Chairs.
123.The delegation of Brazil supported the Belgium’s suggestion to include ‘safeguarding’ because it was not simply the case of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ when ‘safeguarding’ was key.
124.The Chairperson invited the Secretary to read out the proposed paragraph, as amended.
125.Taking note of the proposals, the Secretary presented the amended paragraph, which read, ‘Further encourages the Secretariat to enhance cooperation with universities, including UNESCO Chairs, and to promote graduate studies in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.’
126.With no further comments or objections, the Chairperson pronounced paragraph 5 adopted and then turned to paragraphs 6 and 7, which were duly adopted. With no objections to the adoption of the draft decision as a whole, the Chairperson declared Decision 9.COM 6 adopted.