Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 15.COM 8.B.6

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Singapore has nominated Hawker culture in Singapore: community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context (no. 01568) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Hawker culture in Singapore: community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context is present throughout Singapore. Hawkers prepare a variety of food (‘hawker food’) for people who dine and mingle at hawker centres. These centres serve as ‘community dining rooms’ where people from diverse backgrounds gather and share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Activities such as chess-playing, busking and art-jamming also take place. Evolved from street food culture, hawker centres have become markers of Singapore as a multicultural city-state, comprising Chinese, Malay, Indian and other cultures. Hawkers take inspiration from the confluence of these cultures, adapting dishes to local tastes and contexts. Today, hawker centres across Singapore continue serving the needs of diverse communities in residential, recreational and work districts. Some of the oldest hawkers started their practice in the 1960s. Many specialize in a particular dish, refined over many years, and transmit their recipes, knowledge and skills to younger family members or apprentices. Community organizations, non-governmental organizations and educational institutions play a significant role in promoting and sustaining hawker culture through training programmes, events and documentation projects. As a social space that embraces people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, hawker centres play a crucial role in enhancing community interactions and strengthening the social fabric.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   An integral way of life in Singapore, hawker culture provides a sense of identity and continuity for people across the generations and in a context of urbanization and development. The bearers and practitioners of hawker culture include hawkers, associated groups and people in Singapore who dine and mingle at hawker centers. The knowledge and skills of culinary practices associated with hawker culture are transmitted both non-formally and formally. The multicultural nature of hawker culture respects the cultural traits and norms of different communities and promotes the awareness and appreciation of different religious and cultural practices. It plays a crucial social role in enhancing community interactions, fostering an inclusive society irrespective of the diverse social, religious and ethnic backgrounds of its people.

R.2:   The inscription of the element will inspire local community groups and individuals to find out more about the different types of intangible cultural heritage practices surrounding their daily lives, and to initiate projects and activities that can contribute to their safeguarding. At the international level, the inscription of the element will reinforce the visibility and prevalence of intangible cultural heritage in urban contexts. In a world of ever-expanding urban migration and globalization, it could serve as an example of how intangible cultural heritage can thrive in a highly urbanized environment, as well as contributing to multiple targets of the sustainable development goals (for instance in relation to urban planning, enhancing social cohesion, fostering food security and sustaining livelihoods).

R.3:   Nowadays, the culture of hawker centers exhibits significant vitality. Various stakeholders are actively involved in promoting and enhancing the element and the future safeguarding measures were proposed with the active involvement of the communities, groups and individuals concerned. These measures focus on the following axes: transmission and education, research and documentation, policies and administrative measures, awareness-raising and communication and international engagement. The State Party and other actors concerned are committed to supporting actions related to these areas of safeguarding. The excessive and uncontrolled marketing of the element has been identified as a potential unintended consequence of the inscription. In order to avoid this, it is proposed that various organizations monitor the hawker centers constantly.

R.4:   The communities, groups and individuals concerned were involved in every stage of the nomination process, with an equitable gender balance. The Nomination Committee, which included hawkers’ and non-governmental organizations’ representatives, consulted various stakeholders. The nomination was shared with the public and has generated awareness among various communities since August 2018. On 19 March 2019, over 850,000 people – both men and women from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds, including overseas Singaporeans – indicated their support and consent through various means: the website, a travel exhibition, letters of consent, and video consent.

R.5:   The element was included in the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Singapore in 2018. The inventory is updated once a year by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and is developed with the involvement of community groups, researchers and the public. Focus group discussions were held to seek views on elements that could be included in the inventory. These were followed by further research and verification by the NHB, with a final review by the Heritage Advisory Panel of experts, which advises on tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

  1. Decides to inscribe Hawker culture in Singapore, community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;

  2. Commends the State Party for its first inscription;

  3. Further commends the State Party for devising creative ways to encourage the active participation of the communities concerned in the nomination process, from the very outset;

  4. Also commends the State Party for preparing a nomination file related to an element of intangible cultural heritage that is thriving in a highly urbanized and culturally diverse environment and for developing safeguarding measures that effectively foster dialogue, creativity and sustainability.