Decision of the Bureau: 12.COM 2.BUR 4.3

The Bureau,

  1. Recalling Chapter V of the Convention and Chapter I of the Operational Directives,
  2. Having examined Document ITH/17/12.COM 2.BUR/4, as well as International Assistance request no. 01154,
  3. Takes note that Guatemala has requested International Assistance for a project entitled Preservation of ancestral knowledge and practices of the Chuj people:

The project aims to revitalize the ancestral knowledge and practices of the Chuj people in the municipality of San Mateo Ixtatan in the Cuchumatanes Mountain in Guatemala. The use of the Mayan Chuj language through which this intangible cultural heritage is expressed has undergone a serious decline in the past decade due to several processes of acculturation and the emigration of younger generations. This has resulted in a rapid loss of the Chuj people’s cultural traditions, which the project aims to counterbalance through a reading and writing programme, intergenerational exchanges around oral expressions, the geo-referencing of sacred sites and the organization of festivals with primary schools. Implemented by a local non-governmental organization, the Ixtatan Foundation, in partnership with six primary schools and the Mayan Language Academy, the project will promote bilingual and intercultural education while strengthening the role of elders in the transmission of practices and knowledge that are at the heart of the cosmovision of the Chuj people. Assuming that sacred sites and their associated history play an educational role in the same way as schools, their inventory is conceived both as a means of safeguarding the traditional values they embody and of ensuring their registration by the Ministry of Culture for their enhanced safeguarding.

  1. Further takes note that this assistance concerns support for a project carried out at the local level aimed at safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in accordance with Article 20 (c) of the Convention, and that it takes the form of the granting of a donation in line with Article 21 (g) of the Convention;
  2. Also takes note that Guatemala requested an allocation of US$24,957.82 from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for the implementation of the project;
  3. Decides that, from the information provided in file no. 01154, the request responds as follows to the criteria for granting International Assistance set out in paragraphs 10 and 12 of the Operational Directives:
Criterion A.1: The request refers to the involvement of communities, especially of Chuj community elders, in expressing the needs that led to its preparation. However, it lacks sufficient information both about the mechanisms foreseen to ensure the broad involvement in the implementation and follow-up of the project not only of Chuj community elders but also of other key stakeholders within the community such as teachers, and about how their perspectives and aspirations will be integrated into the management of the project;

Criterion A.2: Due to the inclusion of a number of expenses whose relevance to the proposed activities is not demonstrated (fees for Marimba players, computer equipment, etc.) and to a number of calculation errors, the request does not demonstrate the appropriateness of the amount requested. The costs need to be more detailed, avoiding lump sums wherever possible, which may not provide a sufficient justification for the planned expenditures;

Criterion A.3: The request lacks sufficient information on the links between the different activities proposed and presents them as a list of isolated and uncoordinated initiatives. Due to inconsistencies between the description of the activities and the proposed budget and timetable, it is unclear how each activity could build on the results of preceding activities, such as how the reading and writing programme could feed on the information gathered either through the inventory of sacred places or through exchanges with community elders. In the absence of a minimal description of the ancestral knowledge and practices of the Chuj people that the project aims to safeguard, the relevance of focusing on the teaching of the Chuj language to guarantee the viability of this element of heritage is not clearly demonstrated;

Criterion A.4: Although the project’s potential to have lasting results could be expected to be achieved through the integration of intangible cultural heritage into formal and informal education settings, the request does not provide sufficient information on how the educational staff or the elders involved in the project may be supported in continuing their efforts beyond the end of the project. On the contrary, the request suggests that the sustainability of the project depends on a partner, the Maya Language Academy, whose role is not clearly described, and on its involvement in an annual but occasional activity, namely the Intangible Cultural Heritage Chuj Festival;

Criterion A.5: The Ixtatan Foundation will cover 26 per cent of the overall budget of the project for which International Assistance is requested. Although the request states that the State Party will also cover 7 per cent of the budget, no partnership with government institutions is mentioned;

Criterion A.6: The request is intended to better equip Chuj literature promoters, teachers, young people, elders and the Ixtatan Foundation to safeguard and enhance the role of the ancestral knowledge and practices of the Chuj people. However, the proposed activities are not sufficiently described to demonstrate that they will have a lasting impact on the capacities of this wide range of actors to effectively ensure the viability of the heritage conveyed by the Chuj language;

Criterion A.7: Guatemala benefited from preparatory assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to prepare a nomination for the Nan Pa’ch ceremony, inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2013.  Guatemala also received technical assistance in 2014 for the preparation of an International Assistance request for a project tentatively entitled ‘Support the protection and dissemination of knowledge of the Maya-Mam people of the Municipality of San Pedro Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, Guatemala’; however, the State Party did not submit a request after receiving this technical support; Guatemala currently benefits from an 18-month capacity-building project funded by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund thanks to a voluntary supplementary contribution from Azerbaijan; the project is still ongoing;

Consideration 10(a): The project is local in scope and involves both local partners such as the six primary schools of San Mateo Ixtatan and national partners such as the Maya Language Academy;

Consideration 10(b): Although the Ministries of Culture and Education are not involved in the project, the request expects to attract their interest through the results achieved;

  1. Decides to refer the International Assistance request for the project entitled Preservation of ancestral knowledge and practices of the Chuj people to the requesting State and invites it to submit a revised request to the Bureau for examination at a forthcoming session;
  2. Recognizes the challenges of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage whose transmission depends on endangered languages and welcomes the commitment of the State Party to ensure, within its educational systems, the recognition of the role of intangible cultural heritage in transmitting values and life skills;
  3. Encourages the State Party, if it wishes to resubmit its request, to revise the content of the project taking into account the above-mentioned concerns and to ensure the consistency of the activities proposed, the timetable and the budget in order to adequately demonstrate the relevance and feasibility of the project;
  4. Further encourages the State Party to take advantage of ongoing capacity-building activities in the country to review the request, if it so wishes, in close cooperation with the local stakeholders concerned.