Inventory-making: a cumulative in-depth study of periodic reports
An in-depth study on inventory-making has been provided in the working document prepared for the ninth session of the Committee (2014) on the periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention (ITH/14/9.COM/5.a: الإنجليزية|الفرنسية). The content has been extracted on this page for broader consultation and visibility.
Click on concerned countries to read the full reports of submitted by States Parties.
- A. General trends of ICH inventories in periodic reports submitted between 2011 and 2014
- B. Cases where ICH inventories have not yet been established or are at their initial phases
- C. Number and type of inventories
- D. Ordering principles
- E. Criteria
- F. Viability
- G. Format
- H. Updating
- I. Community participation in the process
- J. Role of NGOs
A. General trends of ICH inventories in periodic reports submitted between 2011 and 2014
Although many countries were already identifying and documenting various aspects of their intangible cultural heritage (as ‘traditional culture’, ‘folklore’, etc.) before they became Parties to the Convention, this remains a top implementing priority in many countries. According to the 58 periodic reports submitted in four cycles of reporting, inventorying is specifically mentioned as a leading priority by a large majority of States Parties and has been undertaken in most. In Turkey, for example, identification, inventorying and defining ICH are noted as the second of four main axes of the national safeguarding plan, and Burkina Faso has piloted its inventory in four ethno-cultural communities (2007). In France, it is noted that the requirements of inventory-making have led to a revolution in thinking and methodology, despite many years of ethnographic documentation.
The establishment of ICH inventories is one of the most visible results of the implementation of the Convention by States Parties. Inventories exist both at national level and at provincial and local levels. They can be general or specifically dedicated to certain ICH domains (music, textiles, indigenous knowledge, etc.). In many countries efforts are underway to expand or to improve existing inventorying systems to better align them with the Convention.
In Viet Nam, for instance, 62 out of 63 provinces and cities have carried out inventorying activities, which form the basis of the National ICH List and of nominations to the Convention’s Lists. In some countries a national inventory already exists and inventorying is being carried out at the regional and local levels, as in the case of Slovakia. As part of the implementation of Spain’s National Plan for the Safeguarding of ICH adopted in 2011, a draft model inventorying system was developed with stakeholders from Spain’s autonomous regions. The model is expected to help stakeholders improve the inventorying systems at regional levels and to ensure that they are in line with the requirements of the Convention.
Most States Parties do have some kinds of inventories of living heritage, but not all of them are necessarily in line with the spirit of the 2003 Convention. For instance, inventories established by a number of States Parties focus on ICH elements considered to have ‘outstanding value’ and/or to be ‘authentic’ or ‘original’, while the Convention’s emphasis is on living heritage that is transmitted from generation to generation, and neither authenticity, originality nor outstanding value are concepts used in the Convention.
In many countries Government and academic institutions are taking the lead in inventorying, with tradition bearers involved only as informants, despite the Convention’s call for a more bottom-up approach to inventorying with the widest possible participation of communities, groups and, where appropriate, individuals as well as relevant non-governmental organizations.
In terms both of their conceptual basis and their content, inventories differ greatly. In some countries, an inventory is conceived as an open and evolving process for which approaches will develop over time in response to the evolution of a national safeguarding strategy or international experiences. In a similar vein, an inventory is viewed in other reporting States as an open list, starting from all data and recordings preserved in informal archives and continuously updated through different synthetic documents (e.g. Ethnographic Atlas of Romania and National Folklore Collection, the typologies and taxonomies of folklore and popular art, etc.). The national inventory could even comprise a list of programmes, projects and activities for safeguarding, as in the case of Slovakia.
The inventory-making process also has many forms. One model, comprising a three-stage structure, sets out clearly the basic elements needed. First, a preliminary survey is conducted to define the area to be inventoried, divide it into locations and gather and systematize information available. Second, field research is conducted to obtain deeper knowledge of previously selected cultural elements. The third stage of documentation comprises systematization, in different materials and media, of the knowledge produced during stages 1 and 2.
Although in many reports it is affirmed that a lot was achieved with regard to setting up inventories, there is also general acknowledgement of the fact that this work is far from being completed. Misunderstandings and misinterpretations still exist of the concepts and principles outlined by the Convention and are in some cases reflected in the way inventorying is carried on.
B. Cases where ICH inventories have not yet been established or are at their initial phases
Among the States reporting during the four cycles, a few have not yet initiated the process of inventorying their intangible cultural heritage, although they may have been collecting and documenting it in non-inventory programmes. For instance, survey work has sometimes been conducted outside the framework of an inventory programme. Argentina, for example, has conducted a survey of ‘Fiestas and Festivals’ and an inventory of the ‘Guaraní Cultural Universe’ while Uruguay conducted an ICH survey on Traditional Celebrations of Uruguay (2007-2009). Honduras has conducted an anthropological survey of each town that included information on intangible heritage and, in Central and Western Honduras, on elements related to the syncretic religious beliefs of the Catholic population among communities (2009-2010).
In some cases inventories may be part of the process of preparing a nomination for the Representative List (e.g. ‘El Filete Porteño’ a traditional painting technique in Argentina) or inventories may be done for already inscribed elements (e.g. the Tango and Candombe elements in Uruguay). These latter two inventories were undertaken in order to test new methods of community participation.
Inventory-making may be an urgent priority for States Parties, as in Namibia where most of the ICH elements already inventoried in Namibia’s nine regions face some degree of a threat of disappearance: 13 Namibian elements have thus far been submitted for inventorying and are awaiting assessment before admission into a planned national inventory. Some survey projects are intended to form the basis of a future inventory, as with the Cultural Estates Inventory Project conducted in 2008-2011 in Honduras. Of course, an arrangement has to be made for any documents and items collected and recordings made during surveying and in Namibia, for example, these are temporarily deposited with the National Archives.
UNESCO has in some cases played a role by encouraging States Parties to establish inventories. In Belize, the UNESCO Caribbean Cluster Office organized a series of workshops (2012-2013) that led to the establishment of a national Working Group for inventorying and a number of cultural elements were identified for inventorying by cultural workers and community representatives: it has been agreed that the inventorying exercise will begin with Belize’s cultural celebrations which will also allow for identification of associated cultural elements. The fundamental design of Belize’s inventory has been set out and it is worth noting that the criteria for inclusion will include the importance of gender and youth in the process of transmission and revitalization. Burkina Faso’s initial inventory was established in 2007 on the basis of a form developed with the support of the UNESCO Cluster Office at Bamako.
C. Number and type of inventories
In a number of cases, a national ICH inventory is built upon pre-existing datasets, often gathered during ethnographic field research. For example, the Cypriot inventory is based on the Oral Tradition Archive of the Cyprus Research Centre (material collected 1990-2010) and in Kyrgyzstan documentation has been carried out since the late 1980s sporadically and locally by various cultural organizations with financial aid from international organizations. As a first step, in India, a national ICH database was established that forms part of a larger cultural database culled from regional institutions all over India. The Abu Dhabi inventory began life in 2003 as a General Survey of Abu Dhabi’s heritage, which was integrated into a more structured and systematic inventory in 2006. In Morocco, information gathered in the field by the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture and by the Association for Development of the Draa Valley has contributed to the ICH inventory. There are two ICH inventories in France: a Register based on work already undertaken by groups, communities, research bodies and others, based either on thematic principles or geographic zones and an ICH Inventory (begun in 2008) of all ICH in France that accords with the definition of Article 2. In contrast, Estonia’s Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage (begun in 2007) does not directly build on existing databases in order to ensure that the inventory focuses on ICH as living heritage.
There is a diversity of number and types of inventory that Parties are establishing. Some inventories include, thus far, a limited number of entries (seven in Albania’s first round in 2010 and four elements identified by experts for Guatemala’s initial national inventorying in 2012). In Venezuela, by contrast, information has been gathered since 1995 from around 22,000 population centres by 336 working groups and local communities and, in Brazil, 160 sub-inventories have been carried out to date and over 1,000 cultural elements have been included. Brazil has developed a complex system in which two main approaches are taken towards inventorying national ICH, namely: (i) the process of officially recognizing ICH through a declaration (for the recognition, enhancement, and declaration of their heritage value) and (ii) a set of actions for the identification, documentation and investigation of ICH in two national inventories. These two inventories themselves refer to distinct action lines of ICH policy-making with their own purposes and procedures and represent different safeguarding tools. The direct interplay here between inventorying, policy-making and safeguarding measures is notable. In Guatemala, a separate process is being developed for inventorying previously-declared ICH elements through an evaluation exercise to determine their current state.
Some (unitary) States have set up more than one national inventory: three inventory lists have been created in Armenia which now contain 19 inventoried items and two inventories are currently being undertaken in Cuba. The process is often incremental, as in Burkina Faso where 30 elements from four ethno-cultural communities of western and central Burkina Faso (Moose, Bobo, Bwa, Sénoufo) were initially inventoried in 2007 and, between 2009 and 2010, a thematic inventory of the ICH of the Sénoufo lands was carried out (bringing up-to-date a pre-existing 2003 inventory). Indeed, inventory-making is a learning process as demonstrated by Venezuela, where the Cultural Heritage Record was initiated in 1995 and its methods and tools have been continuously improved over the years.
In the case of federal States and those with strongly devolved regional powers, there may be a mix of inventories at different administrative levels. This may also reflect the greater expertise and/or experience of certain regions over others (and even over the central government). In the United Arab Emirates, there are two main inventories: (i) the National ICH Inventory (federal) and the (ii) Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Abu Dhabi held by the ICH Department of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. In Italy, inventorying is conducted on the regional level through catalogues; Lazio, Lombardy, Piedmont and Sicily regions all have their own ICH registers while, at the national level, the Ministry administers two inventories, one for cultural heritage in general and one specifically for ICH. There is no national ICH inventory for Spain and, due to the cultural specificity of each Autonomous Community, they have taken different approaches for inventory-making, with different objectives. There are 16 different regional ICH inventories and atlases, five of which register all of an Autonomous Community’s ICH (Andalusia, Catalonia, Madrid, Murcia and the Canary Islands) and 11 that catalogue one or several aspects of the ICH of an Autonomous Community (e.g. Aragon and Castile-Leon).
Specialist inventories (often administered by scientific institutions or NGOs) may exist alongside the national (and regional) ones, such as the Inventory of Traditional Medicine in Abu Dhabi (deposited at the Zayed Complex for Herbal and Traditional Medicine Research Centre). The Italian Ministry of Agriculture manages two national inventories for agricultural know-how and traditional food practices. There are 45 thematic inventories in Burkina Faso on ICH such as initiation rites, rites for the introduction of traditional chiefs, and practices and expressions associated with masks, etc.
D. Ordering principles
The most common ordering principles are by territory or by ICH domain (the five domains of the Convention, either amended or not, or wholly idiosyncratic). Some other approaches are also used, alone or in combination with these. An alternative approach is taken thus far by Slovakia which treats all elements in the national List as equal, regardless of their geographical location, cultural or other community and ICH domain. However, as the List grows in the future an internal structuring will have to be introduced, but judgement is reserved on which principles will be applied.
In some cases, ordering is based exactly on the five domains of the Convention as in Albania and the United Arab Emirates. In India, four of the five domains are applied in inventorying. The approach taken by France is more common where the domains correspond generally, but not completely, to those of the Convention: hence, additional domains such as sporting practices and games are included. In addition, investigations for inventorying within these domains may be geographically-based (mostly regional) or thematic (a group of practitioners, a sector of activities) such as the ICH of immigrants in Ile de France or traditional know-how in Guyana. Similarly, in Cyprus, the first volume of the National Inventory (2012) is divided according to seven domains and the Romanian inventory is being compiled according to domains such as: traditional games and cuisine; habitat; traditional occupations; customary law; traditional metallurgical knowledge; and intangible heritage of ethnic minorities. Kyrgyzstan’s inventory is also ordered according to seven domains, including country-specific sub-divisions such as epics, sayings and proverbs; traditional technologies; national games; pastoral and nomadic knowledge; traditional systems of self-government; methods of inter-generational transmission of information of ecological and ethnic importance; and ornaments (various types of ornaments and folk classifications). Similarly, the domains for Venezuela’s inventorying include such categories as ‘natural with a cultural significance’ and ‘individual heritage bearer’.
Another, less common, ordering principle is the territorial or geographical one alone. This is the case in Luxembourg where the national inventory is based on territorial principles and some elements are present throughout the national territory, while others are more regional. Those that are of a highly localized character are not included in the inventory for that reason. The Kenyan inventory is organized according to the territorial principle but also according to those communities or groups of tradition bearers who make direct requests for inventorying of the intangible heritage in their region.
This combination of two or more ordering principles is found in an alliance of domains with another ordering principle, frequently territory, as in Burundi where the inventory is ordered according both to domains (three of the five Convention domains) and to geographical regions. Indonesia’s inventory is ordered according to 14 domains (including languages, manuscripts, traditional games and sport, local knowledge, traditional technology and architecture, traditional textiles, traditional culinary arts and traditional weapons) and each entry also covers 17 fields indicating, for example, its geographical location. The Automated Inventory System of Cuba is divided into four domains and, for each domain, there are other specific ordering principles, such as the periodicity of popular festivities or the typology of an oral tradition or traditional food and beverage. These are then are ordered according to location (province, municipality, neighbourhood, rural or urban area), origin (African, Spanish or other origin) and justification (where the element is described).
Similarly, in Brazil ICH elements for inventorying are ordered either by territory or by theme and are seen as cultural references that are classified into five domains: an inventory may cover only one or may encompass all. Estonia’s ordering approach is two-tier whereby there are four types of entries: (a) elements of intangible heritage; (b) individual practitioners; (c) organizations connected with the element; and (d) places or regions that are important for this element. These entries are then arranged according to domains of ICH (settlement, way of life, living environment; management of natural resources; food and nutrition; crafts; language and poetical genres; customs and religion; pastime and playful activities) and sub-domains. The Atlas of Intangible Heritage of Andalusia (Spain) takes a holistic approach based on an initial classification into four major domains that then enables the generation of descriptive and analytical models adapted to very different themes (festive ceremonies, trades and know-how, forms of expression, food and cuisine). In Romania, the inventory is ordered vertically, from living elements to those kept only in the memory of their community) and horizontally, from their regional distribution to either their extended or limited circulation.
The inclusion criteria are very much tied to the conception of intangible cultural heritage that is applied nationally and to local specificities in each country and, in that sense, give some insight into the diversity of views of living heritage around the world. At the same time, for inventories in general one can also identify influence from Article 2 of the Convention and the inscription criteria for both the Representative List and Urgent Safeguarding List. For example, the Cuban criteria (for both inventories) are explicitly based on Article 2.1 of the Convention and include those elements that are recreated by communities, groups or individuals; provide them with a sense of identity and continuity; and are imbued with human creativity and a sense of belonging. In the case of Kenya, an element of intangible heritage must comply with Articles 2, 11, 12 and 13 of the Convention and belong to one or more of the five domains of living heritage. Below is a summary of the main criteria applied by reporting States so far:
|Definitional criteria||Elements fall within the definition given in Article 2.1 of the Convention and should be in conformity with existing international human rights instruments, the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals and sustainable development; or elements are defined by national legislation. Elements are also often related to one or more domains.|
|Descriptive criteria||Elements are included in the inventory according to their viability and current condition, as well as the existence of communities of practitioners and bearers. It is usually associated with a spatial frame of reference. Local recognition is important and the element should be strongly related to the communities and places where they were created, preserved and transmitted. It is sometimes required that the continuity of practice or enactment be documented for a long time. In other cases the element has to belong to specific categories of people such as minorities, ethnic groups, etc. Sometimes a criterion of ‘unique example of traditional national character’ is used, despite finding little basis in the Convention.|
|Justificatory criteria||Communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize the element as forming part of their cultural heritage. It plays an important role in the creation and reinforcement of their cultural identity and provides them with a sense of belonging and social roots. It is an important source of inspiration and intercultural exchange and promotes closer contacts amongst people and communities. It is a constituent element in the formation of national identity, belief or philosophy.|
|Community participation criteria||The request for inclusion in the inventory should come from a community of bearers. Free, prior and informed consent supported by documentation should be provided by the participants. If the element contains sensitive information, access to the data is restricted.|
|Transmission criteria||The element has been passed on from generation to generation and the vitality of transmission within communities is ensured. It is continuously recreated and constitutes an example of the contemporary living heritage of a community. Historical continuity or ‘rootedness in the past’ are also used as descriptive criteria (e.g. practised by at least two to three generations of bearers or practitioners). The element is determined, to a great extent, by the passage of time and is developed, expressed or recalled in the present.|
|Endangerment and safeguarding plans||Another criterion used is the identification of threats of disappearance and the need of urgent safeguarding. A comprehensive analysis of the current state of the element is required, as well as an identification of identifying risks and potential safeguarding problems.|
In addition to the above, it is also worthy of note that some States have taken rather different approaches to the question of criteria for inventorying. The criteria for inclusion of intangible heritage elements in the Indian National Inventory are directly related to the recording of live performances, with written documentation made of the event which also includes the participating artists, scholars and stakeholders. Indonesia takes the approach of having a set of general criteria followed by further criteria of a technical nature (e.g. viability, significance for the community, acceptability, authenticity, representing indigenous peoples, etc.) or administrative nature (e.g. geographic area, community and local government support, complete data and representing cultural categories). France takes a minimalist approach in which the only criteria used for inclusion are compliance with the definition of Article 2 and community consent. Since the inventories in Brazil are structured around the concept of cultural reference, this is a selection process carried out by bearer communities themselves who indicate the elements considered most important and representative of their culture: only those elements will be included in the inventory.
The viability of elements is addressed in most inventories in different ways. In some, only those elements that are currently viable are included, such as in Cyprus where each entry takes into account the degree of viability of the element and its geographical distribution. The inventory in Kyrgyzstan contains information on the viability of the elements and a separate inventory is being developed of elements threatened by disappearance and in need of urgent safeguarding. There is a detailed analysis of risk to the element in the Atlas of Andalusia (Spain) which includes 12 potential threats to viability, such as political and economic exploitation, fossilization, reification and media-induced standardization. A particularly interesting one is ‘enforcement of environmental regulations without considering the importance of the traditional social uses of land’.
In Abu Dhabi (the United Arab Emirates), priority for collection and documentation is given to elements threatened by disappearance (e.g. known only to elderly people or with very few practitioners). The Venezuelan inventory gives priority to elements whose bearers believe they are at risk of disappearance or significant alteration, and takes into account factors that affect the sustainability of the expression over time, according to information given by the bearers (this may include safeguarding measures proposed by bearers). In Brazil, the level of threat to viability is a decisive element in prioritizing inventory-making – here, the participatory process of knowledge production and documentation is understood to mobilize communities and enhance their capacity to preserve the element.
Viability may even be a criterion for inclusion in the inventory, as for Kenya where an element has to be viable (living, rooted in tradition and constantly recreated) in order to be included. In Morocco, in cases where the governmental authority takes the initiative for inventorying, the main criterion is the vulnerability of cultural heritage within a specific region affected. In the Slovakian inventory, the viability of intangible heritage elements is taken account of in a special section on the inventorying form entitled ‘Need for urgent safeguarding … assessment of viability, evaluation of risks’. In equivalent mechanisms, the Cuban Automated Inventory System includes an evaluation of viability through the mandatory declaration made by the community and, in Estonia, each entry must include information on its sustainability, including modes of transmission, threats it faces (if any), safeguarding measures and their impact.
Other inventories, in contrast, do not take into account the viability of intangible heritage threatened by disappearance or in need of urgent safeguarding; this is the case in India and Luxembourg. Although France’s inventory does not directly take into account the viability of the elements, planned safeguarding measures are included in a separate section.
The data collected during field research on the elements are recorded on inventory forms. The amount of information required varies from a limited number of general fields to a complex dataset. In its more basic form, the information required may include: identification of the element, its characteristics, its scope, the existence of practitioners and practising communities and the actual condition of the element. More detailed forms might include the following fields:
- identification of the element and its location (category, name and role or function of person, community of group, locality, etc.);
- description (of the heritage and its space, periodicity of enactment or performance, place of enactment, associated tangible elements, materials used, products, apprenticeship, transmission modes, etc.);
- justification for inscribing and patrimonial value (significance for the community, effects and advantages associated with its practice);
- historical viability information (general and specific history of the person or group, form of expression, or cultural space);
- past and/or ongoing safeguarding measures;
- technical information (dates and place of investigation, date of inventory form, name of investigator, etc.).
Additional information required in some formats are: the name and contact details of the person(s) reporting on the element; the date and place of the report; the name of the community, group or individuals responsible for the element; the names of persons with skills and know-how for the element; best practices for safeguarding and proposed by communities or exponents; documentation and optional agreements for metadata sharing.
For elements in need of immediate safeguarding, specific additional information may also be included in the format such as the reasons for danger of loss and need for preservation. The Italian National Catalogue records intangible heritage at the moment of expression. For better community participation, a more responsive and lightweight tool is currently under development, using a field-survey approach and audiovisual documentation of elements.
Most inventories are available both in hard copy (e.g. as printed volumes) and in digital format. Information gathered through field studies may be immediately entered into a digital database, which greatly facilitates access and retrieval. In other cases, this is a work-in-progress and formats for identification for digitization and insertion in a special database are often under planning. The elements entered may, for example, be published on the website of the centre and/or ministry in charge of intangible heritage with all the information related to the process of recording the elements and additional materials (photographic images, audio-visual materials, etc.). The Venezuelan inventory is publicly available in PDF format. The Italian database can be searched using various terms that allows for cross-referencing.
Language can be an important issue and, in some cases, the inventory is provided not only in the mother tongue but also translated in another, mainly in English or French. For the inventory of Slovakia the information is made available in Slovak, German, English and French; Kyrgyzstan’s inventory is available in both electronic and handwritten formats in Kyrgyz (the national language) and Russian (the official language).
It is common for the textual information to be accompanied by audio-visual, photographic, graphic and cartographic documentation. The information can be designed to maximise interaction between the different elements and materials in the inventory. For example, in the Italian database, the audio-visual documentation of a specific handicraft includes the entire manufacturing process demonstrated, described and commented by its traditional bearer. The format of the Atlas of Andalucía (Spain) also enables cross-referencing of information on intangible heritage with its territory and related moveable and immoveable heritage.
Inventorying is generally carried out through direct observation of the element and its associated practices and expressions, using digital tools for recording photographic and other materials. An inventory may be based on pre-existing data (research projects, fieldwork, etc.) that were not undertaken according to the inventory’s ordering principles, which poses a challenge for entering this information into the inventory database: data-gathering for an inventory is generally done according to an inventory form that requires a particular information set for which an inventory manual is often developed. The Venezuela database is designed using only open source software and access to information is permanent and free. This allows users to make observations and recommendations and to upload documents, photos and videos relating to the living heritage of their interest. This also facilitates updating the database.
Most, but not all, inventories have some process for updating that may be periodic or as new entries are added. The timeframes for periodic review range from a six monthly evaluation (monitoring the safeguarding plans), annual or biennial review of the entries in the inventory (often with community-level consultation) and/or annual reporting on the status of inscribed elements to less frequent updating (e.g. every five years or ‘in the next few years’). Another approach is to update the inventory as new elements are added or to evaluate elements on a case-by-case basis when changes occur, often as reported by the bearers.
The methods of updating also vary. This may be done through the responsible body arranging a meeting with intangible heritage bearers, communities, governmental and non-governmental organizations; in others, this is a process driven more by the expert community and NGOs specializing in different areas of ICH. Some governments rely on regional bodies for this process (e.g. the County Centres for Conservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture in Romania and the 11 regional offices of the relevant Ministry in Indonesia). Updating may also be undertaken through organizing field trips throughout the territory of the State (with ethnographers, archaeologists, folklorists, photographers, etc.). In a few cases, several inventory projects are implemented each year throughout all regions of the country, with each project viewed as updating the process of identification. It is a common view that the cultural community is a primary source of information on the status of elements and proposals for safeguarding and development. The point is made in one case where there is no regular updating that the computerized nature of the inventory allows for easy revision and additions.
I. Community participation in the process
Most States Parties report that community participation and involvement in inventorying are an important aspect of the process, although their depth varies. It is common for information meetings and consultations with communities to be held in advance of inventorying at which inventorying plans are explained and the informed consent of the community members secured. Some reporting States take this further by organizing training of community members to act as local researchers and interviewers. Other techniques employed to ensure community participation are field surveys, workshops or seminars, open community forums and focus-group discussions.
In examples of deeper community involvement, inventories may be designed with the direct involvement of the communities whose views were a determining factor for identifying the localities in which they were carried out. In other cases, community involvement begins at the later stage of gathering information and documenting intangible heritage elements; their involvement may be active (acting as local resource persons and investigators) or reactive (as interviewees and sources of information). In the latter case, identification and description of elements are likely to be undertaken by experts. Community participation includes the following elements: giving their express consent; establishing inventory monitoring and follow-up; consultation and validation of produced information; inclusion of community researchers in research teams; and taking decisions about the diffusion of materials and format of final products.
Those States that aim to have full community involvement do so at most stages of the process (e.g. information sessions and training, design, identification of ICH elements, collection and treatment of data, etc.). The involvement of communities also covers validation and analysis of inventory results, which, as well as ensuring more reliable data, empowers community members to take the lead in implementing the proposed safeguarding measures. It can also be pointed out that community involvement seems to lead to a greater sense of ownership of the whole safeguarding process.
As far as the organizational context within which this occurs, some bearer communities have grouped themselves into associations, providing them a platform to interact with other communities and with the authorities in the inventorying process. However, given the heterogeneity of communities where variables such as gender, work culture, ethnicity, age and relationship with authority come into play, bearer groups often have many and varied agendas.
J. Role of NGOs
Civil society organizations, cultural associations, NGOs, indigenous rights and rural development groups often participate in documentation of intangible heritage. NGOs play a role particularly in identifying and inventorying living heritage in provincial and far-flung localities and in specialized areas of intangible heritage (traditional crafts, performing arts, dance, etc.). In some cases, NGOs representatives have been trained in the inventory process, with some being recruited as research assistants and coordinators who deal directly with the community members and gathered the data for the tentative inventories.
NGOs also offer scientific consultancy to both government bodies and communities on the methodology and approach to be used in the inventory or documentation, having recognized competence in the field. They often play the role of interlocutors between State authorities and local communities for inventorying, and provide resource persons for interviewing local communities and training them in identification, filling out inventory forms, etc. This relationship sometimes takes the form of a partnership between the State organ and NGOs, research institutions, the private sector, etc. In some cases, tripartite agreements are established between local authorities, community organizations and bearers.