The eighteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took place at the Cresta Mowana Resort in Kasane, Republic of Botswana from Tuesday 5 to Friday 8 December 2023. It was the seventh time that the Committee meeting was held in Africa. The session saw the participation of over nine hundred participants, and was chaired by H.E. Mr Mustaq Moorad, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Republic of Botswana to UNESCO.
Following the work of the Evaluation Body, all 56 files presented to the Committee in the 2023 cycle were recommended for inscription, selection or approval. During this session, the Committee inscribed 6 elements on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and 45 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The committee also selected 4 programmes for the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices and granted one request for International Assistance. There were nine inscriptions involving countries in Africa and three inscriptions by Small Island Developing States (SIDS). For the first time, Angola, the Bahamas, Cameroon, Djibouti and Grenada had national inscriptions. Furthermore, twelve multinational elements were inscribed, serving as inspiring examples of international cooperation.
The session coincided with the end of the twentieth anniversary of the 2003 Convention which allowed those involved to promote the objectives of the Convention, take stock of past achievements and explore the Convention’s future development. The Committee celebrated the anniversary in the plenary and through numerous side events organised during the week - the Seoul Vision for the Future of Safeguarding Living Heritage for Sustainable Development and Peace as well as the call for action ‘The Spirit of Naples’ were highlighted in particular as outcomes of the anniversary celebrations.
At the session, 15 reports on the current status of elements inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List were examined. The Committee also took note of safeguarding trends, challenges and opportunities highlighted in the reports submitted by all eighteen States Parties in the Arab States. The Committee also endorsed a move towards a single global submission date for all States Parties, covering all aspects of the international cooperation mechanisms of the Convention that are currently reported on different schedules – this is in preparation for the Global Report on Cultural Policies, to be produced every four years following the MONDIACULT 2022 Declaration.
Additionally, the Committee reaffirmed the important role of intangible cultural heritage for inclusive social, economic and environmental development, and welcomed the progress made in the implementation of the thematic initiatives on the economic dimensions of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and climate change, and safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in urban contexts.
The session marked an important moment in the reflection on a broader implementation of Article 18 of the 2003 Convention. The Committee examined the recommendations of the Open-ended intergovernmental working group on how to ensure that the voices of communities are better heard, while improving access to and increasing the visibility of the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. In this regard, the Committee took note of the step-by-step plan to establish an online platform for sharing good safeguarding experiences of communities around the world.
Echoing the important role played by non-governmental organizations in the implementation of the 2003 Convention, the report of the ICH NGO Forum was discussed which included the results of the first round of the mapping of the domains of competence of accredited non-governmental organizations. The Committee also established a new Evaluation Body for the 2024 cycle, including three new members.
Finally, it was decided that the nineteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee would be held in Asunción, Paraguay from 2 to 7 December 2024.