Decision of the Bureau: 15.COM 2.BUR 3.4

The Bureau,

  1. Recalling Article 23 of the Convention as well as Chapter I.4 of the Operational Directives relating to the eligibility and criteria of International Assistance requests,
  2. Having examined document LHE/20/15.COM 2.BUR/3, as well as International Assistance request no. 01562 submitted by Gabon,
  3. Takes note that Gabon has requested International Assistance for the project entitled Strengthening national capacities for safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage in Gabon:

To be implemented by the Ministry of Culture and Arts, this project is aimed at strengthening capacities to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in Gabon as part of the implementation of the 2003 Convention. One of the main components of the project, which will last over a period of twenty-four months, involves preparing a national strategy for safeguarding living heritage which is currently absent. Similarly, as inventories – which are fundamental for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage – are not being carried out, a component on conducting pilot inventories is also included, targeting three communities in the selected regions: Shaké-Okandé from Lopé, Pygmies from Iboundji and Evia from Fougamou. Another aim is to equip participants and communities with the skills needed to conduct inventories and raise awareness of the Convention, its goals and challenges. A restitution workshop is also to be organized at the end of the project in the form of a closing workshop attended by all partners involved.

  1. Further takes note that this assistance is to support a project implemented at the national level, in accordance with Article 20 (c) of the Convention, and that it takes the form of the provision of a grant, pursuant to Article 21 (g) of the Convention;
  2. Also takes note that Gabon has requested assistance in the amount of US$97,303 from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for the implementation of this project;
  3. Decides that, from the information provided in file no. 01562, the request responds as follows to the criteria for granting International Assistance given in paragraphs 10 and 12 of the Operational Directives:

Criterion A.1: The project is designed to mainly benefit institutions in charge of safeguarding living heritage (the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage, the Provincial Directorates as well as universities, research centres, associations and/or individuals). Although some cultural institutions and community associations are mentioned in the request, only a small number of their representatives are involved in the implementation of the activities; only nine members will take part in the training and only one community representative will accompany the inventorying teams on field missions. Finally, information on the involvement of the communities in the project evaluation is missing. It is therefore difficult to assess to what extent the target communities would be empowered to continue safeguarding activities beyond the completion of the project.

Criterion A.2: Although the budget is presented in detail, it will mainly cover workshop organization costs (41 per cent) and field missions (57 per cent). In addition, a number of expenses seem to have been omitted (e.g. acquiring equipment to conduct the inventories or fees for experts). Other costs appear to have been underestimated, such as the cost of the project evaluation. For all these reasons, the amount of assistance requested is not considered to be appropriate for the implementation of the planned activities.

Criterion A.3: The request presents eight different activities that combine raising awareness about the importance of safeguarding Gabon's living heritage. Unfortunately, the project does not sufficiently explain the connection between the different activities; for example, it is not clear how the results of the pilot inventory will contribute to the development of the national strategy for the safeguarding of living heritage. Moreover, the expected results, such as the development of a national strategy in six months, seem overly ambitious in relation to the timeframe of the project. Additional information is also needed to explain the responsibilities of each of the interested parties in the implementation of each of the proposed activities in relation to the expected results. Finally, the role of the UNESCO national office in Libreville, to which the organization of important tasks seems to be entrusted, is not clear, particularly in terms of the budget implications.

Criterion A.4: The proposed activities, as presented, do not seem to guarantee that the results would lead to the creation of a sustainable framework in which the communities would participate in drawing up inventories or in establishing a national network of experts in charge of intangible cultural heritage in Gabon. The request does not describe the processes by which the inventorying will be continued beyond the project or how the information collected would contribute to preparing the national strategy for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Furthermore, the request does not demonstrate how creating a database on the living heritage elements of these three communities would result in identifying and defining appropriate safeguarding measures for these elements.

Criterion A.5: The requesting State will share 20 per cent of the overall budget of the project for which International Assistance is requested from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.

Criterion A.6: The project is aimed at reinforcing the capacities of heritage professionals from the Ministry of Culture and Arts and representatives of the three target communities. However, the project only seems to include one training session to be undertaken by an international expert for a relatively short period of time (a five-day training session). There is also a lack of clarity as to the content of the training activities and the role of the sole national expert involved in the project. This lack of information makes it difficult to determine to what extent the capacities of the communities and the national framework will be strengthened in the long term.

Criterion A.7: In 2015, Gabon received International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for the project entitled ‘Inventory and promotion of the intangible cultural heritage of the Pygmy populations of Gabon’ (File no. 00949, 2015-2017, US$24,560). The tasks stipulated in the contract for this assistance were carried out in compliance with UNESCO regulations, while there was a delay to the finalization of the project, which was finally completed in 2019.

Paragraph 10(a): The project is to be implemented at the national level and involves partners such as the National Commission of Gabon for UNESCO, several cultural associations, the University Omar Bongo, laboratories and research centres as well as UNITWIN (University Twinning and Networking). The UNESCO Office in Libreville is also listed as an important partner.

Paragraph 10(b): The submitting State considers that the national strategy for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, which is to be validated at the end of the project, should make it possible to mobilize financial resources from the Ministry of the Budget. It is also hoped that the project would raise awareness among the private sector and donors about the importance of safeguarding living heritage.

  1. Decides to refer to the requesting State the International Assistance request for the project entitled Strengthening national capacities for safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage in Gabon and invites it to submit a revised request to the Bureau for examination at a forthcoming session;
  2. 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, in particular, that there is a clear correspondence between the overall objectives and the proposed activities, budget and timetable of the project.