Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 16.COM 8.C.1

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Denmark and Germany have proposed Danish-German minority model: a framework for living together in peace in a culturally diverse region (no. 01697) for selection and promotion by the Committee as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention:

The area of Schleswig is home to three native cultures, Danish, German and Friesian. The three are interrelated but markedly different in terms of their language and cultural and social practices. With the rise of nationalism in the early nineteenth century, a focus on differences created tensions, especially between Danes and Germans, culminating in two bloody wars – the Schleswig Wars of 1848-1851 and 1864. In 1920, a referendum resulted in the partition of Schleswig into a Danish and a German part. The new border created a majority of Danes in the north and a majority of Germans in the south. In 1955, acknowledging cultural freedom, personal rights and formal equality as guiding principles for peace, the German and Danish governments issued the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations. The two non-legally binding, unilateral statements of intent were issued on the same day by the heads of government of both countries. Further improvements have made it possible for both minority communities to enjoy a well-established infrastructure (including community schools, libraries and clubs) to safeguard and transmit their Danish or German language and cultural heritage. The Declarations created a framework in which the intangible cultural heritage of the minorities could flourish and contribute to peaceful coexistence.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the programme responds as follows to the criteria for selection as a good safeguarding practice in paragraph 7 of the Operational Directives:

P.1:  The description of the model is too broad to determine how exactly it reflects the principles and objectives of the Convention. The file seems to refer to a cultural policy for the general integration of minorities without a specific relationship to intangible cultural heritage as defined by Article 2 of the Convention. The file describes the relative long-term implementation of two political declarations, dating back to 1955, which recognize the freedoms and rights of Danish and German minorities to self-identity. Legal measures, the promotion of Danish and German languages and other deliberate steps to support minority cultures on both sides of the Danish-German border have resulted in the general support for Danish and German culture, traditions and ways of life.

P.2:  The coordination measures described refer to a number of legal and political mechanisms which facilitate the access of minority groups to the governance and decision-making bodies in Denmark and Germany. There are references in the file to regional cooperation, namely: the setting up minority schools with public funding in Denmark, equal access to public funds for attending schools in Germany, funding of theatre and poetry slams. However, these references are not sufficient to determine how this regional model contributes to the safeguarding of a specific element of intangible cultural heritage or intangible cultural heritage in general.

P.3:  The file focuses predominantly on the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations and the political measures taken to ensure the rights of the minorities and prevent discrimination. While these are important measures to ensure the rights of minority communities, it is unclear how these measures relate specifically to the principles and objectives of the Convention. These measures may be more appropriate to be considered under other international frameworks for cultural and human rights.

P.4:  The file does not demonstrate how the programme has contributed to the viability of intangible cultural heritage. First, it is not clear which specific elements of intangible cultural heritage are concerned by the file. Second, the file does not describe the viability of any elements in a substantial manner.

P.5:  The Sydslesvigsk Forening (SSF, South Schleswigian Association) and the Bund Deutscher Nordschleswiger (BDN, Union of German North Schleswigians) are listed as the competent bodies responsible for the local management of the Danish-German minority model. A number of other non-governmental organizations are also listed. These actors demonstrate the dense landscape of associations concerned, including organizations relating to youth, schools, lifelong education, religion, media and politics. They include the Royal Danish Library and the German Commission for UNESCO, who also participated in local meetings and workshops leading up to the preparation of the file. Free, prior and informed consent is also established in the file.

P.6:  The file explains that the Danish-German minority model cannot be applied or exported as a whole, but rather should be viewed as a toolbox to be adapted. The file proposes that the key components of the model may be adopted elsewhere as a democratic practice, which considers that “national minorities should be able to maintain their culture and practices, including language without discrimination.” However, the file does not provide sufficient information on which components of the model are concerned with the safeguarding of a specific element of intangible cultural heritage or intangible cultural heritage in general.

P.7:  The file explains how various communities, administrations, universities, institutions and parliaments have already accumulated decades of experience in presenting the Danish-German minority model and cooperating to share their experience and knowledge. In particular, various institutions are cited as being able to conduct research on and present findings about questions concerning minority groups. However, the ability of these institutions to disseminate information about the good practices is implied rather than explicitly stated in the file.

P.8:  The file describes a system of monitoring and evaluation that is conducted by the Council of Europe on the Danish and German Minority Policy. This system also involves the minorities themselves in the collection of various quantitative information and statistics, such as the number of members in clubs and associations, or participants at events and cultural events organized by the different clubs and associations concerned. The file provides a link to a website, which includes a section on culture, but which addresses activities only in general, and not in terms of specific elements of intangible cultural heritage.

P.9:  The Danish-German minority model can serve as a positive example of a policy relating to the protection of minority rights and practices. However, as the model seems to fall outside the scope of the Convention as described in Article 2, it does not serve as a model that can be applicable to safeguarding efforts that meet the particular needs of developing countries.

  1. Decides to refer Danish-German minority model: a framework for living together in peace in a culturally diverse region to the submitting States Parties;
  2. Commends the States Parties on having adopted policies for the integration of linguistic minorities and recalls, nevertheless, that only programmes, projects or activities dedicated to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage can be nominated for this mechanism.