The Chairperson then proceeded with the Committee’s examination of nominations to the Urgent Safeguarding List, as addressed in document 8. It was noted that there was a decrease in nominations in the 2012 cycle (eight submissions of which one was withdrawn) compared to the 2011 cycle with 23 submitted nominations. The Chairperson surmised that the Committee might wish to give some thought to the imbalance of interest in the Urgent Safeguarding List compared to the Representative List. For the sake of clarity, the Chairperson reminded the Committee of the five inscription criteria, adding that its task was to decide if each nomination satisfied all the criteria while drawing upon the Consultative Body’s recommendations. The Chairperson invited the Rapporteur of the Consultative Body to present a brief report on the Consultative Body’s work in this regard.
The Rapporteurreported that the Consultative Body had received eight nominations to the Urgent Safeguarding List for the 2012 cycle, with none of the nominations receiving unanimous approbation by members during their individual evaluations. In each of the eight cases, at least one Body member concluded that not all of the criteria were satisfied. Conversely, one nomination received negative recommendations from all twelve members. For the other seven nominations, members were nevertheless able to achieve complete consensus on all the nominations during the course of their collegial discussions. The Rapporteur shared the Consultative Body’s appreciation of efforts by a number of States Parties that encouraged the safeguard of intangible cultural heritage in remote areas and in difficult socio-economic situations, and for having recognized the potential of intangible cultural heritage as an instrument of sustainable development for local communities.
The Rapporteur then presented an overview of the Consultative Body’s findings on a criteria-by-criteria basis. U.1: Generally speaking, the Consultative Body found that submitting States had not adequately demonstrated that the element constituted intangible cultural heritage, as defined in Article 2 of the Convention, which evidently was not a judgement on the element but rather on the information provided in the nomination form. The Consultative Body had found that although continued transmission of the element is an essential part of its definition, a number of files did not provide information in this regard. It also noted a tendency in certain nominations to criticize young people for lacking interest in learning or practising the element even though safeguarding in general and transmission in particular are the shared responsibility of both young and old. The Consultative Body wished to emphasize that a judicious balance needed to be found in the nomination file between the description and nature of the element and its function within the community; describing only one without the other was not considered sufficient. Furthermore, the Consultative Body found it difficult to fully grasp the element concerned when presented in a decontextualized and isolated way. In other cases, members sought a more vivid description of the nature and form of the element and not only its social functions.
The Rapporteur noted that U.2 had been problematic in two nominations where the submitting State had not clearly demonstrated that the element warranted inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List, having emphasized elsewhere in the nomination that the element (or at least aspects of it) was thriving. As previously mentioned in the general report, members occasionally found internal contradictions in the same nomination file regarding the viability of the element; the element was sometimes presented as thriving while elsewhere the same practice was described as almost disappearing. States Parties were reminded to provide a clear and consistent picture of the viability of the element and the need for safeguarding. It was evident that submitting States continued to encounter difficulties in striking the proper balance in demonstrating that an element was facing serious threats but nonetheless remained sufficiently viable to be safeguarded. In a few nominations, the Body found a lack of evidence of any previous efforts of the communities and States Parties concerned to safeguard the element, as required in criterion U.2. Moreover, prior safeguarding efforts demonstrated the willingness and commitment of communities to work together to meet this challenge. The Consultative Body sought more thorough discussion in the nominations of intrinsic vulnerabilities both in the risk analysis for criterion U.2 and in the proposed safeguarding measures in criterion U.3. Members also found that certain elements had intrinsic qualities or characteristics that put the practice or expression at risk, independently of changing external circumstances. The Consultative Body encouraged submitting States to take into consideration possible characteristics of the context and the element itself that, if not properly acknowledged, might lead to a misguided safeguarding response, while being aware that inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List cannot be seen as a ‘miracle’ solution to resurrect an element that is no longer practiced.
The Rapporteur turned to U.3, which presented the greatest difficulties for submitting States Parties, as the sole eliminating factor in one nomination and a contributing factor in four other nominations. Firstly, the lack of information on prior efforts by the submitting State had cast a shadow over the feasibility and sustainability of the proposed safeguarding measures, especially as the will and support of the submitting State were considered essential prerequisites for the safeguard of intangible cultural heritage. Moreover, the Consultative Body found that safeguarding plans were often too general and weak. Very little information was provided about data and methodologies supporting the elaboration of the safeguarding measures, which were often expressed in conditional terms rather than in a precise and direct manner. The Consultative Body wished to remind States Parties that safeguarding plans should include clear and coherent information on objectives, results, activities, workplans, and overall cost in order to permit evaluation. As mentioned in the general report of the Consultative Body, it would prefer to see a small plan for which resources are committed rather than an overly ambitious one with funds to come from not-yet-identified donors or from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund. The Rapporteur recalled that Urgent Safeguarding List nominations did not look for a detailed budget, but instead for an estimation of the costs of different safeguarding activities and a clear identification of their source. Moreover, inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List did in no way imply the availability of funds from the Convention to implement the safeguarding plan proposed. Indeed, in some cases a substantial amount of the funds needed for implementing the safeguarding measures was shown as constituting a ‘UNESCO share’ or ‘UNESCO contribution’, with the Consultative Body concluding that the safeguarding measures were not feasible and inscription could not be recommended. Conversely, the Consultative Body also regretted that in several instances a nomination for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List was submitted when it would apparently have been more beneficial to the community and State Party concerned to submit a request for international assistance. Indeed, if inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List can be an effective means of focusing the attention of the international community on the urgent need to safeguard an element and to unlock financial resources, States Parties might find that in certain cases a request for international assistance is the most appropriate response, rather than a nomination to the Urgent Safeguarding List.
The Rapporteur then turned to U.4, recalling the importance of the involvement of the communities, groups and individuals concerned throughout the entire process of a nomination. Their presence and the evidence of their participation should be evident throughout the whole file, i.e. in the definition of the element, the assessment of its viability and the identification of threats, the planning and design of safeguarding measures, as well as the elaboration of the inventory, which is required by the Convention. In this regard, the Consultative Body regretted the often-preferred top-down approach. With regard to U.4, the Consultative Body encouraged submitting States to provide a detailed explanation of the selection of the community involved in the nomination, especially when the element is practiced by several communities over an extended territory. The free, prior and informed consent of the community, group or individuals was typically less problematic than their widest possible participation in the elaboration of the nomination. Nevertheless, the Consultative Body wished to recall that this consent could not be obtained retroactively once the file has been elaborated.
Finally, the Rapporteur turned to U.5 where in a single case the Consultative Body considered that the submitting State had not sufficiently described the inclusion of the nominated element on an inventory of intangible cultural heritage, as defined in Art. 11 and Art. 12 of the Convention. The Consultative Body also encountered difficulties in several cases where the State Party had not provided the requested documentary evidence of the element’s inclusion on an inventory, or an active link to a website where that inventory could be consulted, the Body noted that this documentary evidence had been requested in the nomination form ICH-01 on the basis of similar problems encountered in the first cycle of inscriptions to the Representative List. It therefore recommended to the Committee (paragraph 6 of draft Decision 7.COM 8) that submitting States be required to provide such evidence in order for their nomination to be evaluated so that future bodies will not be left to speculate whether or not the element was indeed included in an inventory. In this regard, while recognizing that every State Party can elaborate one or more inventories ‘in a manner geared to its own situation’ (Art. 12.1 of the Convention), the Consultative Body expects that an inventory is something more than a list of names of elements, since Art. 11 of the Convention requires that the element is not only identified, but also defined.
With regard to video documentation, the Rapporteur explained that in the 2012 nominations, the Consultative Body found discrepancies and a lack of coherence between the information included in the written file and that presented in the video and photographs. It therefore encouraged States Parties to insist on coherence and a close correspondence between the description of the element presented in the audiovisual materials and the information included in the nomination form. Moreover, the nomination files that included the video and photographs were permanently available online to the general public and it was therefore important that they were as informative and correct as possible.
Faced with the wide range of approaches and video styles, the Rapporteur suggested that the Committee might wish to consider how it might identify certain videos – whether submitted to the Representative List or to the Urgent Safeguarding List – as good examples that could be emulated by States Parties preparing future nominations.
The Chairpersonthanked the Rapporteur for the helpful overview of the eight nominations, adding that the draft decision 7.COM 8 would be addressed after the examination of all the nominations. He reminded the Committee that eight nominations were initially received, but that Kenya had decided to withdraw its file, leaving a total of seven nominations for examination. The Chairperson recalled the working methods that were based upon the experience of previous cycles, particularly the working methods of precedent year in Bali, with the Committee having the final say on whether or not to inscribe the element. He recalled that all the criteria for inscription had to be met for an element to be inscribed and that the submitting State had the duty to demonstrate in the nomination how the different criteria were met. Thus, the Committee had to assess the nominations and not judge a reality on the ground. Furthermore, the Chairperson surmised that the Committee might reach a different conclusion to the Consultative Body, which should result from the careful study of the information available and not on additional information known in any private capacity. The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the same information was made available to the public and thus the method used to reach decisions must be respected so as to remain credible and respected by the international community. Additionally, it was important to recognize that behind every nomination laid the hopes of the community. In this way, States Parties had an immense responsibility to ensure that nominations were presented in a clear and convincing manner to the Committee.
Turning to the specific nominations and their draft decisions, the Chairperson explained how he intended to conduct the examination for each nomination, the Chairperson of the Consultative Body, Ms Soledad Mújica would present a brief description of the nominated element, while a selection of photographs submitted as part of the nomination would be projected on the screen. Turning to the draft decision proposed by the Consultative Body, the Chairperson of the Consultative Body would then inform the Committee which criteria were deemed satisfied and which, in its opinion, were not satisfied by the submitted nomination. Particularly in cases where the Consultative Body found that one or more criteria were not satisfied, the Chairperson of the Consultative Body would briefly present the factors that led the Consultative Body to its conclusion and then open debate on the draft decision as a whole.
Citing Rule 495 of the Rules of Procedure, the delegation of Brazil proposed a motion to suspend the application of Rule 22.4, which establishes that submitting States should not take the floor during the examination of their own nomination. The delegation explained that the Convention celebrated cultural diversity, dialogue and rapprochement of cultures, whereas Rule 22.4 did not reflect this spirit since it prevented the State Party to provide the rationale of their nomination to the Committee. The delegation accepted that the Consultative Body had to solely rely on information provided in the file to draw its conclusions, but that it was important that the State Party be given the opportunity to provide its rationale on the criteria. The delegation believed that allowing the State Party to speak immediately after the presentation of its file would ultimately save time, as the submitting State could respond to any queries from the outset.
The Chairperson suggested that the matter be dealt on a case-by-case basis, not least as the situation had yet to arise, and the need to suspend Rule 22.4 had yet to be established.
The Legal Adviser clarified that the suspension of a Rule required a two-thirds majority decision and that the suspension on a case-by-case basis could lead to the unequal treatment of files. The Legal Adviser reminded the Committee that under rule 22.4 a State Party had the right to explain in reply to question raised with regard to the Consultative Body’s examination contained in its report. In effect, the Committee could ask a question to the submitting State Party with regard to a point that had been unconvincing. The Legal Adviser advised against setting a precedent to suspend the treatment of files on a case-by-case basis.
The delegation of Brazil fully understood the explanation given and therefore would not insist on the matter. Nevertheless, it still maintained that the submitting State Party should be given the opportunity to explain its position from the outset to avoid a sort of agreed beforehand type of questions, not least because the option to respond to a question already existed and would therefore save time, particularly when there were divergent opinions.
The Chairperson understood Brazil’s concern. Returning to the operational procedures, the Chairperson reminded the Committee that the debate on the draft decisions was limited to members of the Committee focusing on concrete amendments for an average of 35 minutes per file. Reiterating Rule 22.4 the Chairperson reminded the Committee that the submitting State would be given two minutes to offer its remarks to the Committee’s decision once all the nominations from the State concerned had been discussed. Noting that the session was drawing to a close, the Chairperson suggested starting the examinations in the next session. Following a number of practical announcements on the Bureau meeting, and the evening’s events, the Chairperson adjourned the day’s session.
[Tuesday 4 December, morning session]
ITEM 8 OF THE AGENDA (CONT.):
EXAMINATION OF NOMINATIONS FOR INSCRIPTION IN 2012 ON THE LIST OF INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE IN NEED OF URGENT SAFEGUARDING
Decision 7.COM 8
The Chairperson opened the morning session by informing the Committee that at its private session the Bureau had approved the two pending international assistance requests that were not approved by the Committee in 2011 and were delegated to the Bureau, namely ‘Safeguarding and revitalizing the Mongolian traditional epic’ by Mongolia for US$216,000 and ‘Inventorying the tangible cultural heritage of four communities in Uganda’ by Uganda for US$107,000. He congratulated the States Parties, adding that the press would be reserved access to the sessions over the next two days. The Chairperson reiterated that interventions would be limited to two minutes, adding that members could only intervene twice on the same issue in an effort to stay on schedule.
The delegation of Uganda thanked the Chairperson, the Secretariat and the Chairperson of the Consultative Body for approving its request for international assistance, as well as the General Assembly in which Uganda was elected to become a member of the Committee. The delegation assured the Committee that it would adhere to the work plan.
With Mongolia absent from the room, the Chairperson proceeded with the examination of the files.
The Chairperson of the Consultative Body presented the first nomination on Earthenware pottery-making skills in Botswana’s Kgatleng District [draft decision 7.COM 8.1] submitted by Botswana. Earthenware pottery-making skills are practised among the Bakgatla ba Kgafela community in Botswana by women who use clay soil, weathered sandstone to make pots of different forms, designs and styles that relate to the traditional practices and beliefs of the community. Pots are used for storing beer, fermenting sorghum meal, fetching water, cooking, ancestral worship and traditional healing rituals. However, the practice is at risk of extinction because of the decreasing number of master potters, low prices for finished goods and the increasing use of mass-produced containers. The Consultative Body had concluded that the file fully satisfied all five criteria. With regard to U.1, the Chairperson explained that the file had adequately justified how pottery-making had been transmitted by the community, while linking the practice with the system of local beliefs. The file also demonstrated in U.2 that the element required urgent safeguarding, particular because of the low number of practitioners and their advanced age. In U.3, the Consultative Body had remarked that to ensure its viability and transmission, the production of alternative products to traditional pottery should be envisaged, given the many household tools being replaced by industrial products in the local market. The Consultative Body also noted in U.4 that the community concerned were consulted, and that the element was included in an inventory of intangible cultural heritage in Kgatleng district; a requirement in U.5. In recommending the inscription, the Consultative Body highlighted in paragraph 4 of the draft decision the importance of presenting spiritual aspects or those linked to nature and ecological sustainability. Furthermore, the Consultative Body had remarked positively on the number of efforts undertaken by the government of Botswana to safeguard the practice, notably in the revival of the women initiation school, as indicated in paragraph 5 of the draft decision. The Consultative Body also wished to remind the submitting State of the importance of maintaining pottery-making and its associated social interaction, ritual meaning and so on, as indicated in paragraph 6 of the draft decision.
The Chairperson was pleased to begin with a favourable recommendation, adding that it set a standard for comparison with the other files. He then moved to the adoption of the draft decision on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. Noting that there were no comments or objections to the paragraphs of the decision, the Chairperson declared adopted Decision 7.COM 8.1 to inscribe Earthenware pottery-making skills in Botswana’s Kgatleng District on the Urgent Safeguarding List.
The delegation of Botswana thanked UNESCO and the Flanders Funds-in-Trust for supporting the project and many other intangible cultural heritage activities, and the Consultative Body for having recommended inscription of the element on the Urgent Safeguarding List, which was of great importance to the practising community, especially women, and to the country. The delegation spoke of its commitment towards fully respecting the context in which the practice takes place and the symbolic meaning of the pottery. Furthermore, the community and the government would ensure that efforts to diversity production and distribution did not denature the practice as intangible cultural heritage. Inscription would also respect customary restrictions in the use of raw materials and the spiritual aspects of the practice that are ecologically sustainable, adding that the proposed safeguarding measures were included in government development strategies.
The Chairperson of the Consultative Body presented the next nomination on Ongota oral tradition [draft decision 7.COM 8.2] submitted by Ethiopia. Ongota oral tradition comprises poems, legends, tales, myths and proverbs transmitted in the Ongota language among the Biraile community in southern Ethiopia. At present only twelve elderly people maintain the Ongota oral tradition. Bearers perform this heritage only when they encounter one of the other twelve bearers, for instance at coffee ceremonies with neighbours. They also perform Ongota songs during agricultural tasks. The Chairperson noted the file had been submitted for the first time in 2009, having been revised three times following remarks by the Secretariat for complementary information before its submission to the Consultative Body. It was noted that U.2 and U.5 were satisfied, but that U.1, U.3 and U.4 had not been sufficiently demonstrated by the submitting State. It was noted that the oral tradition is practised only by a dozen elderly practitioners and that it was being supplanted by the language and heritage of the neighbouring community. These threats to the element’s safeguard were well identified and therefore satisfied U.2. Additionally, the inclusion of the element in 2007 in an inventory of intangible cultural heritage elaborated by the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage satisfied U.5. However, in U.1, the submitting State had not demonstrated how the element provided a sense of identity and continuity to the community. Following a long debate on this criterion, the Consultative Body recognized that the Ongota oral tradition existed but that it seemed to have almost ceased and that it was supplanted by the oral traditions of the neighbouring Tsemay community. Thus, U.1 was not satisfied, as the submitting State did not demonstrate that the individuals recognized this cultural expression as part of their intangible cultural heritage and transmitted it from generation to generation. With regard to U.3, the Consultative Body found it difficult to determine from the safeguarding measures the financial commitment by the State in its implementation of a feasible safeguarding plan. Moreover, the proposed measures seemed to focus on formal education, while the Consultative Body would have liked to see greater detail on the working methodology, documentation and research in the revitalisation of the oral traditions, as well as on concrete activities to safeguard the tradition vis-à-vis younger generations. With regard to U.4, information provided by the State did not contain enough detail to demonstrate that the community participated in the nomination process. The Consultative Body therefore regretted that it could not recommend its inscription. Conversely, in paragraph 5 of the draft decision the Consultative Body remarked on the efforts by Ethiopia to seek recognition of oral expressions from communities under difficult circumstances in very remote areas. In paragraph 6, the Consultative Body took note that the Ongota oral tradition was directly linked to the survival of the Ongota language spoken by very few members of the community. Thus, in paragraph 7, the Consultative Body invited the State Party to cooperate with the Biraile community to document the language and Ongota oral traditions, and encourage its speakers.