Fifteenth session of the Committee
During its fifteenth session, the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage met for the first time using a fully online modality, from 14 to 18 December 2020. H.E. Ms Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica chaired the session, which employed innovative methods to connect virtual podiums from both Kingston and Paris.
Thanks to the online Zoom platform and atmospheric reggae chill moments, this unprecedented session of the Committee convened over five days to make a series of important decisions despite the many challenges faced in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Participation remained as global as ever, with 142 different countries registered. Up to 2500 people followed all or part of the debates over the course of the meeting, and of these, more than 800 were registered participants.
Together, through the virtual medium, Committee members inscribed three elements on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and twenty-nine elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Committee also added three programmes to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices and allotted $99,239 from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to a project to safeguard Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu ancestral musical sound, knowledge and skills in Namibia.
For the first time, Finland, Malta, Paraguay and Singapore had elements inscribed. This year also saw the highest number of multi-national nominations, with fourteen inscriptions testifying to the ability of intangible cultural heritage to bring people together and promote international cooperation. These inscriptions provided communities around the word with optimism and joy as well as the necessary motivation to continue finding creative ways to transmit their heritage to the next generations
At the session, nine reports on the current status of elements inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List were examined. Important decisions were also taken related to the number of files to be treated in the 2022 and 2023 cycles (15.COM 9). For the first time, recognizing the important role that non-governmental organizations play in safeguarding of living heritage, there was a standalone item to discuss the report of the ICH NGO Forum (15.COM 6). This Forum provides a platform of cooperation for accredited NGOs under the Convention. Finally, the Committee established a new Evaluation Body for the 2021 cycle, including three new members (15.COM 10).
Another highlight was the launch of the second phase of a project initiated by the Secretariat in 2018 Dive into living heritage and sustainable development. While the first phase of the project demonstrated new ways of visualizing the multi-faceted and holistic nature of intangible cultural heritage, this second phase underlines the wide-ranging ways in which expressions and practices of living heritage and their safeguarding contribute to the United Nations’ seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
The cooperation and flexibility to work in a new way demonstrated by Committee Members made this a successful session despite setbacks and obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating States Parties’ commitment to the 2003 Convention and its ongoing relevance in the face of global challenges.