The Chairperson remarked that the periodic reports had shown that many States Parties had embarked on a broad range of safeguarding measures while others seemed to be slower in developing effective safeguarding policies and institutions. Often this was due to human resources, which only emphasized the need to strengthen both professional and institutional resources. The periodic reports also showed that a number of States Parties had yet to fully benefit from the Convention’s opportunities for cooperation. In this regard, the Chairperson was honoured to welcome the generous offers of the Netherlands, Norway and Spain to support the capacity-building strategy through voluntary supplementary contributions to the ICH Fund. The Chairperson expressed his deepest gratitude to the States Parties concerned for their commitment towards reinforcing the capacities of developing States, adding that this was the best way to contribute sustainably to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. The Chairperson also noted that this was the second time that Norway and Spain had provided such valuable support, while the contribution by the Netherlands came just six months after its ratification. The Chairperson also thanked Japan for its voluntary contributions to the ICH Fund that covered the costs related to the two open-ended intergovernmental working groups in 2011 and 2012.
The Secretary recalled that during its fifth session, the Committee had accepted the generous offer of US$1.3 million from Norway to implement three capacity-building programmes in Lusophone African Countries (Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe), Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), and the Caribbean (Aruba, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti), which had benefitted 150 key stakeholders to date, mobilizing colleagues in Headquarters and the field. Spain also contributed US$230,000 to the Fund to support capacity-building in Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua). The Committee was now invited to consider three new voluntary contributions in accordance with Article 25.5 of the Convention that would allow them to be earmarked for specific projects. Other unrestricted voluntary contributions would be added to the Fund and spent according to the plan approved by the General Assembly.
The Secretary took the opportunity to apologize for the late online availability of document 19, adding that the Committee was invited to accept a total amount of approximately US$2.25 million to be used as indicated in paragraph 5 of the document. It was noted that 100% of the contribution from the Netherlands would go towards strengthening the capacities of Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean islands. Norway’s contribution would be divided into four projects: 35% for the second phase (following a successful first phase) of the project ‘Strengthening capacities of Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa for implementing the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage’ with special emphasis on São Tomé and Príncipe, and possible extension to Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde; 33% towards strengthening the capacities of Maghreb countries (Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia); 16% towards strengthening the capacities of Myanmar; 16% for strengthening the capacities of Eritrea. It was noted that both Myanmar and Eritrea had made repeated calls for capacity-building. Meanwhile, 100% of Spain’s contribution would go towards strengthening the capacities of Niger. The projects would follow the model that had been presented earlier.
The Secretary explained that should the Committee approve the offers, the Secretariat would work alongside the beneficiary countries through UNESCO’s field offices to prepare concrete work plans for the implementation of the six projects. Consistent with the principles of Results-Based Management, the contributions would be credited to the Special Account for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and governed by its Financial Regulations, as adopted by the Committee at its first extraordinary session in May 2007. Moreover, placing the cooperation within the framework of the implementation of the Convention and the decisions of its statutory bodies increases the impact of such projects, while providing donors with high visibility. The offers by the Netherlands, Norway and Spain, together with the funds from the ICH Fund, should enable the Secretariat to continue its work on the global strategy for strengthening Member States’ capacities for the effective safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
The Chairperson thanked the Secretary for the clear explanations, and was pleased to note that the Netherlands, Norway and Spain had put their faith in the Convention.
The delegation of the Netherlands was pleased and honoured to participate at the Committee meeting for the first time as State Party, adding that it fully supported UNESCO’s global capacity-building strategy. The delegation considered important that Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean be able to implement the Convention so as to safeguard their intangible cultural heritage. Capacity-building activities and training workshops would therefore be organized for policy workers, cultural organizations and intangible cultural heritage communities over the next two years, which the delegation hoped would increase awareness of intangible cultural heritage in the region and the world.
The delegation of Norway was of the opinion that the success of the Convention depended on two criteria. Firstly, the ability of States Parties to implement the Convention by creating favourable conditions for the different stakeholders, as well as the national obligation to cover the safeguarding measures. Secondly, the ability of States Parties to cooperate with the Committee to address the international issues of the Convention, including the lists and international assistance. Both cases required capacity-building to support States Parties in creating favourable institutional and professional environments. The delegation welcomed the decision by the third General Assembly to support the global capacity-building strategy, since it targeted tailor-made projects that addressed the level and needs of the beneficiary countries, which included institutional infrastructure that catered to specific safeguarding needs. This would prove to be a more adequate approach compared to a one-size-fits all model, and one that would strengthen the capacity of all actors concerned. Within the framework of cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and UNESCO, the delegation informed the Committee that another voluntary contribution would be made in 2013 to support this timely and useful strategy. The delegation hoped to remain regularly informed of the projects as they develop, which could serve as a learning platform for the sustainable safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
The delegation of Spain explained that it had made its contribution as the result of a dual commitment to the young Convention so as to ensure its effective implementation and because intangible cultural heritage is one of Spain’s main priorities. It was also viewed as a priority for Spain’s overseas development in the Sahel region, an area with a wealth of intangible cultural heritage yet in great need of assistance.
The Chairperson reiterated his thanks to the three countries for their generous and important contributions towards the implementation of the Convention, particularly in view of the world’s economic situation.
Speaking on behalf of Group V(a), the delegation of Nigeria expressed its sincere thanks to the three countries for their generous contributions to Africa that targeted the special needs of the Lusophone countries as well as Eritrea.
The delegation of Morocco wished to thank all the countries that provided voluntary contributions to the Fund, notably the Netherlands, Spain and Japan, as well as Norway for allocating 33% of its contribution to the Maghreb region. The delegation of Tunisiaalso thanked Norway for its generous contribution.
The delegation of Grenada thanked the voluntary donors for their supplementary contributions, and invited other States Parties to contribute towards capacity-building in the wider Caribbean region.
The Chairperson moved to the adoption of the draft decision.
The delegation of Japan remarked that it had submitted a minor amendment, adding that there were two ways of supporting the capacity-building strategy: through voluntary contributions, for which it was thankful to the three contributing States Parties, but also through the Funds-in-Trust arrangement. In this way, States Parties could best select the way it wished to contribute to the Convention, which could be reflected in the decision. The Chairperson concurred with the remarks by Japan, adding that paragraph 7 had been amended accordingly to include the mention of ‘Funds-in-Trust arrangements’.
The delegation of Morocco took the opportunity to thank Japan for its enormous contributions to the Convention, and thus sought to include Japan among the countries commended for their contributions.
The Secretary agreed that Japan provided considerable assistance, but that there were in fact many important contributors. She suggested formulating a separate paragraph that would take into consideration these contributions, while highlighting the specific contributors to the ICH Fund.
The delegation of Grenada agreed with the Secretary that the purpose of the decision was to accept the specific earmarked funds as stipulated in the Operational Directives. It also supported the amendment by Japan, and proposed adding the names of the contributors to paragraph 7 in reference to those that had accepted the invitation extended to States Parties to support the global capacity-building strategy.
The Chairperson acknowledged that the draft decision served a specific purpose, but would consider a more general decision if the Committee so wished. With no further comments of objections, the Chairperson declared Decision 7.COM 19 adopted as amended.
The Chairperson took the opportunity to recall that at its third session in June 2010, the General Assembly established a dedicated sub-fund to be used exclusively for enhancing the human capacities of the Secretariat. To date, several countries had made contributions to the sub-fund, and the Chairperson wished to thank Bulgaria, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea and Spain. The Chairperson also encouraged other States Parties to consider strengthening the capacities of the Secretariat through small or large donations, particularly as the sub-fund was now largely depleted due to the severe financial constraints faced by UNESCO’s Regular Programme. The Chairperson concluded that without resources, the work of the Convention and the Secretariat would be hindered.
ITEM 7 OF THE AGENDA:
REPORT OF THE CONSULTATIVE BODY ON ITS WORK IN 2012
Decision 7.COM 7
The Chairperson then turned to the report and results of the Consultative Body, recalling that this was the second time the Committee would receive its report, as this mechanism was put in place at the third session of the General Assembly on an experimental basis. The Chairperson further recalled that when the General Assembly met in June 2012, it had decided that owing to the positive results, evaluations should be entrusted to the Consultative Body on a more sustained basis, with the Operational Directives accordingly amended. He reminded the Committee that the Consultative Body consisted of six accredited non-governmental organizations and six independent experts, and he invited the Chairperson of the Consultative Body, Ms Soledad Mujica, and its Rapporteur, Ms Claudine Augée Angoué, to join the podium. The Chairperson explained that Ms Angoué would present an oral report on the working methods of the Consultative Body, as well as the transversal issues that had emerged, which would be followed by a brief discussion of the issues raised in the report. The Chairperson made clear that the adoption of the overall decision would take place only after the evaluation of the individual files of the three mechanisms under item 8 [the seven nominations to the Urgent Safeguarding List], item 9 [the two proposals for selection in 2012 to the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices], and item 10 [the nine international assistance requests greater than US$25,000].
The Chairperson further explained that for each nomination, the Chairperson, Ms Mujica, would introduce the file and summarize the key findings and recommendations. The Committee would then begin to debate the draft decision for later adoption. Priority during the general debates would be given to the Committee, but observers would also be given the opportunity to speak, time permitting. Debates on specific nominations, proposals and requests would however be limited to members of the Committee. The Chairperson reminded the Committee to keep as closely as possible to the schedule, reiterating that the overall decision would be adopted once the discussion on the nominations and transversal issues had been concluded. The examination of the files under items 8, 9 and 10 would proceed according to the same plan, with the Rapporteur presenting a brief overview of the Consultative Body’s work followed by the presentation of the individual nomination files and the eventual adoption of the draft decision. The Chairperson would return to the adoption of the overall decision 7.COM 7 before concluding the work of the Consultative Body.
The Rapporteur of the Consultative Body, Ms Angoué, presented the four parts of the report, beginning with the working methods of the Consultative Body as well as observations and remarks common to all three mechanisms. This would be followed by a general debate on the transversal issues, as well as specific observations within each of the mechanisms. The Rapporteur explained that the present Consultative Body was established by the Committee in its Decision 6.COM 12 and composed of six accredited NGOs and six independent experts selected on the basis of geographical representation and the various domains of intangible cultural heritage. The six NGOs were: Maison des cultures du monde (France), International Council for Traditional Music (Slovenia), Centro de Trabalho Indigenista (Brazil), Centre for Research, Support and Development of Culture (Viet Nam), African Cultural Regeneration Institute – ACRI (Kenya), and the Association Cont’Act pour l’éducation et les cultures (Morocco); and the independent experts were: Mr Egil Sigmund Bakka (Norway), Ms Rusudan Tsurtsumia (Georgia), Ms Soledad Mujica (Peru), Mr Rahul Goswami (India), Ms Claudine-Augée Angoué, (Gabon), and Mr Abderrahman Ayoub (Tunisia). In addition to the documents corresponding to items 8, 9, and 10, the Consultative Body also had to provide the Committee with an overview of all files and a report of its evaluation.
With regard to the working methods, the Rapporteur explained that the Consultative Body met in Paris on 22–23 March 2012 to determine its working methods and schedule, and on 3–7 September 2012 for the evaluation of the files. The Rapporteur recalled that the deadline for submission of files for the 2012 cycle was 31 March 2011 at which a total of 214 files were registered by the Secretariat (including 55 unexamined files submitted to the Representative List since the 2009 cycle). Once the Secretariat had confirmed the priorities, a total of 22 files were to be submitted to the Consultative Body for evaluation; with two States deciding they were unable to complete their files for the 2012 cycle, only 20 were evaluated by the Consultative Body. As with previous cycles, the Secretariat established a password-protected, dedicated website through which the members could consult the translated and original language files, any accompanying documentation, videos and photographs, as well as the original files and the Secretariat’s requests for additional information. The last file made available online to the Consultative Body was in mid-July, leaving members only a few weeks to complete their evaluations before its meeting in September. Each of the members evaluated every file and prepared a report explaining whether and how it responded to the applicable criteria, which was submitted online. These evaluation reports showed divergent opinions for all 20 files. It was during its September meeting that the Consultative Body debated its recommendations and formulated the draft decisions in the three respective working documents, reflecting the consensus reached during the often-long sessions. The draft decisions were the result of a first text prepared by the Secretariat based on the evaluation reports of the twelve members, which were amended during the debates. Revised versions were circulated in French and English to the members for correction and final adoption in the weeks immediately following the September meeting.
The Rapporteur introduced the section on General observations and recommendations, remarking with satisfaction that UNESCO’s global capacity-building strategy was beginning to bear fruit, with more files from Electoral Group V(a) than from any other group. Even though not all the nominations or requests were favourably met, the Consultative Body commended the submitting States Parties for their initiatives. The Consultative Body was also pleased to see that a number of files responded to the Committee’s appeal to give due attention to questions of sustainable development, and such topics as conflict resolution, peace-building, environmental sustainability, income generation and food security. The Consultative Body wished to emphasize that it did not seek to reach any conclusions concerning the intrinsic merits of the element, but that it only assessed the conformity of the information provided in the nomination, proposal or request with the relevant criteria and whose recommendations were based solely on the information contained within the submitted file. The Consultative Body regretted that some decisions were met unfavourably and endeavoured to provide constructive and specific feedback that could assist the submitting State Party in preparing a revised file or drawing up a new file. In several cases, there was an impression that the inscription of an element was a first step that would lead to greater safeguarding efforts. However, the submission of a file is not an end in itself but should be seen as a midway point in an on-going engagement by the State Party to ensure the safeguarding of the element, and the file should pay greater attention to the safeguarding measures that are already in place, as well as indicate the objectives pursued by the communities and the States Parties. States Parties were also encouraged to take into consideration the financial and human resources at their disposal before preparing their files. Firstly, so as to propose safeguarding strategies (notably for nominations to the Urgent Safeguarding List and international assistance requests) which are tailored to local and national contexts and that are sustainable. Secondly, so that the files mention the different actors in the coordination of safeguarding measures in each country and so benefit from their complementary knowledge.
The Rapporteur encouraged States Parties to present files of the highest possible quality both in their drafting and in their presentation of information. Moreover, States Parties should refer as much as possible to past Committee decisions, the assessments of the Secretariat and other forms of information available in order to reach their goal of inscription or financial assistance. The Consultative Body also wrestled with the problem of information that was not found in its proper place; a problem that had already been addressed in the past, and which led to differences of interpretation among members of the Consultative Body and would thus present problems to readers of the file following its successful inscription or selection. Additionally, files should be unique and coherent, and therefore sections should not contradict each other, while the text should be coherent with the accompanying photos and video. Among the files evaluated, the Rapporteur remarked that certain characterizations of practices within another State Party could easily provoke misunderstanding among the populations of the countries concerned. Although the characterizations encountered in the present cycle referred to the practices of non-State actors, the Consultative Body was concerned about formulations that could undermine the Convention’s fundamental principles of international cooperation and mutual respect, and it encouraged States Parties to make every effort to avoid extraneous and potentially problematic comments about the safeguarding efforts and practices within other countries.
With regard to the communities, the Rapporteur further explained that in the files evaluated, the Consultative Body sought to have clearer information about the internal segments or sub-groups within a community, while submitting States should justify the choice of a particular segment of a larger population as the focus of its safeguarding efforts. In its 2011 report the Consultative Body pointed to ‘the invisibility of women as participants in the elaboration of the files and implementation of safeguarding measures’, which was also a noted concern in 2012. The Consultative Body also wished to remind States Parties that communities should participate as widely as possible throughout the process of elaborating files, in the proposed actions and in its implementation, and not simply once the file has been successful. Moreover, States Parties should be attentive to the nature and quality of community participation. The Consultative Body does not underestimate the difficulty in fully implicating communities in the safeguarding of their own heritage, but that too often communities were considered as passive sources of information or providers of consent rather than as active participants in the planning and decision-making.
The Rapporteur also noted a number of issues concerning safeguarding pertaining to both the Urgent Safeguarding List and international assistance in which the Consultative Body encountered a number of files where the needs assessment, definition of threats or gap analysis was inadequate. In order to determine the adequacy of the safeguarding measures and so ensure the viability of the heritage, it was considered essential that a clear and specific set of safeguarding measures should concretely respond to the given situation. Additionally, a clear definition of the objectives in the both the short and long term should be given, even before the elaboration of the set of measures and activities. The Consultative Body also looked for a clear and direct connection between objectives, analysis/justification, expected results and activities in both Urgent Safeguarding List nominations and international assistance requests. The Consultative Body regretted that a number of the files it received lacked a clear and convincing formulation of such objectives or the objectives that were declared were either not derived from the situation analysis or not translated into concrete measures and activities. With regard to safeguarding methodologies, the Consultative Body found many cases where they were either insufficiently justified and described or were expected as taken for granted by the reader.
The Rapporteur reiterated the remarks made by the Subsidiary Body in its 2011 report on the subject of over-commercialization. It welcomed nominations or requests in which income-generation, remuneration to tradition-bearers or expansion of audiences aimed to contribute directly to ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage in question, but it regretted that the objective of safeguarding seemed to be secondary. The Rapporteur cited the report, ‘The […] Body also considered that safeguarding measures should address excessive commercialization that may be detrimental to the social and cultural functions and the viability of intangible cultural heritage’ (Document ITH/11/6.COM/CONF.206/13).
Finally, with regard to the procedure, the Consultative Body wished to know the Committee’s position on the question of whether, during the course of an examination cycle, a State Party should be able to substitute a new file in place of the one initially submitted. It noted that the Operational Directives allowed submitting States to complete their files with additional information when the initial assessment of the Secretariat identifies gaps in the original file. However, one State Party chose to submit an entirely new file on a different topic in place of the one that had been submitted. The Consultative Body had accepted to examine the resubmitted file. Nevertheless it considered that the substitution of a new file on a different topic was not fair to other States Parties and it consequently encouraged the Committee to provide clear instructions to the Secretariat so as to guide its treatment of files should a similar situation arise in a subsequent cycle.
The Chairperson thanked the Rapporteur for the Consultative Body’s impressive work, noting that a number of important areas had been raised.
The delegation of Belgium remarked on the rigorous and professional examination of files to the three mechanisms, though it regretted the low number of international assistance requests receiving a favourable outcome. In this regard efforts should continue to build capacity. Nevertheless, requests for international assistance should be clear, motivated and adapted to real needs, which was not always the case. The delegation thanked the Secretariat for its work on the index of transversal issues, which was a very useful working tool for the future. The delegation reiterated the importance of community involvement throughout the nomination process as well as in the implementation of the Convention.
The delegation of Czech Republic expressed thanks to the Consultative Body for its great work and useful report, which highlighted a number of issues faced by States Parties, as well as providing clear instructions and guidelines on compiling nomination files that should be heeded. The delegation appreciated the summary document on transversal issues, which indicated where to find relevant documents and information that would help increase the number of successful inscriptions. Drawing attention to paragraph 28 of the report in which a nomination was replaced by a new nomination file after the 31 March deadline, the delegation agreed with the Consultative Body that the nomination file should be treated as a separate nomination but be examined within the normal procedure in a subsequent cycle.
The delegation of Brazil expressed its gratitude to the Consultative Body for its outstanding work, but regretted the low number of submissions to the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices, adding that sharing practices across the world was a principal objective of the Convention. It also regretted the low number of successful requests for international assistance. The delegation expressed gratitude to the Secretariat for its preliminary in-depth examination of every nomination, adding that it was very helpful to have such feedback. The delegation drew attention to paragraph 19 in the report, which stated that ‘inscription should not be the main aim’, adding that inscription itself often triggered additional safeguarding measures and was thus an important action as more resources were channelled to the grassroots as a result. The delegation also thanked the Secretariat for the interesting document on transversal issues. It also believed that the substitution of a file by a completely new element was unfair to States Parties when it should be submitted in a subsequent cycle.
The delegation of Latvia welcomed the strong reasoned position of the Consultative Body regarding the general requirement that States Parties demonstrate a long-term commitment and invest efforts in safeguarding activities at the national level before submitting its file, which would ensure the credibility of the lists and the Convention as a whole. The delegation agreed with Brazil and the Czech Republic on the question of substituted files and did not support the practice, although it did welcome the feedback approach to identify shortcomings in the files.
Thanking the Consultative Body for its hard work, the delegation of Indonesia appreciated the constructive comments, which were invaluable to States Parties for the future preparation of quality nominations. The delegation also thanked the Secretariat for preparing the useful information document that referenced other relevant documents and Committee decisions, and encouraged States Parties to refer to the document.
The delegation of Azerbaijan commended the Consultative Body for the quality of its work and the methodology used, and thanked the Secretariat for its assistance to the Consultative Body and its capacity-building activities that resulted in a greater number of nominations from Africa. The delegation remarked that some nomination files lacked essential information and it supported the methodology used to assess the conformity of the information contained within the form with the relevant criteria. The delegation agreed that wider community involvement was necessary in all stages of the preparation of nominations and regretted that this principle was not always observed. It took note of the emphasis placed on the issue of mutual respect and dialogue, and referred to past Committee decisions stipulating that nominations should avoid information that might provoke misunderstandings, which was essential to the credibility of the Convention. In this regard, the delegation supported the proposal by Belgium to introduce a code of ethics so that States Parties would consider the principle when preparing nominations.
The delegation of China congratulated the States Parties for submitting their periodic reports and extended its gratitude to the generous contributors to the ICH Fund. The delegation appreciated the great efforts of the Consultative Body and their valuable recommendations and comments, which would help improve nominations in future cycles. The delegation also thanked the Secretariat for its excellent work on the transversal issues.
The delegation of Grenada congratulated the Consultative Body for its extensive report as well as the Secretariat for the support given to the Consultative Body and for its follow-up on the files with the States Parties. The delegation agreed with the Consultative Body’s report that States Parties should carefully consider reading reports and past decisions when preparing their files, thus ensuring that information is contained in the right place in the form. The delegation also agreed that the substitution of one file by another was unfair to other States Parties and should not be accepted.
Thanking the Consultative Body for its careful examination of the nomination files, including its own file on ‘Ala-kiyiz and Shyrdak, art of Kyrgyz traditional felt carpets’, the delegation of Kyrgyzstan remarked that handicrafts were invariably linked to the local economy, as highlighted by the Consultative Body in its report, and that this did not decrease its cultural value. The delegation suggested that ‘commercialization’ be described as ‘sustainable development activities’, adding that businesses as well as governments could be involved in the safeguarding process through cultural tourism, museums and handicraft development, and that cultural and economic issues could be seen as complementary.
The delegation of Japan expressed gratitude to the Consultative Body for its excellent work and its comprehensive report, but was disappointed to note the small number of favourable recommendations to the Urgent Safeguarding List and Register of Best Safeguarding Practices, which it considered useful in promoting the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
The delegation of Burkina Faso commended the Secretariat for the quality of the informative documents, and spoke of its satisfaction with the Consultative Body report, as inscriptions on the lists were important in terms of increasing visibility of intangible cultural heritage, but that inscriptions were not the prime objective. The delegation agreed with the Consultative Body that inscription was only one step in the overall process of safeguarding that called upon a number of actions prior to inscription and a number of safeguarding measures following inscription. The delegation considered the Secretariat’s assistance in requesting complementary information as an important step in the revision of nomination files, but did not accept the substitution of one file for another, which was unfair to other States Parties, suggesting that the Operational Directives explicitly cover the issue of revised files.
The delegation of Peru commended the Consultative Body for its report, adding that one of the objectives of the Convention was to promote international cooperation and dialogue and it encouraged States Parties wishing to inscribe elements to seek assistance from countries that have been successful.
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that it would return later to the adoption of draft decision 7.COM 7.