One of UNESCO’s main activities, the cultural sector, recognizes the importance of all heritage including the tangible heritage and intangible heritage of mankind and emphasizes cultural diversity for the sustainable development of mankind. In 2003, UNESCO adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, contributing to the promotion of cultural diversity.

Definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage (Article 2 of the Convention)

  •  It is practice, representation, expression, knowledge, and skills that generations, groups, or sometimes individuals perceive as part of their cultural heritage, and instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces related thereto.
  • Intangible heritage is transmitted from generation to generation
  • and promotes respect for cultural diversity and the creativity of mankind by ensuring that groups are recreated constantly in response to the environment, interacting with nature and history, and ensuring that they have an identity and continuity.

Examples of Intangible Cultural Heritage

  • Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of ICH
  • Performing arts
  • Social practices, rituals and festive events
  • Knowledge and pracrices concerning nature and the universe
  • Traditional craftsmanship

Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

  • The Convention on the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage entered on October 17, 2003 adopted the urgent safeguarding list and representative list entry system, and integrated heritage declared as ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ into the ‘Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.
  • In addition, UNESCO sought to expand the participation of various entities such as NGOs, communities, experts, professional centers, and research institutes in the safeguarding of intangible heritage based on the convention adopted, established the intergovernmental committee and the intangible heritage fund for implementation of the convention to request national reports on safeguarding intangible heritages to contribute to, and raise awareness of intangible heritage protection.
  • The General Conference of UNESCO met in Paris from 29 September to 17 October 2003 for its thirty-second session. During the session, the participants considered the importance of intangible cultural heritage as a driving force of cultural diversity and a guarantee for sustainable development. They also recognized, however, that developments leading to globalization and general social transformation are threatening the survival of this cultural heritage among practicing communities. Recognizing a need to safeguard intangible cultural heritage against threats of deterioration, disappearance, and destruction, the General Conference adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  • Below are UNESCO publications related to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Clicking on the links will download the .pdf. For additional information about UNESCO and intangible cultural heritage, please visit the UNESCO ICH website.

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