Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.8

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Switzerland has nominated Alpine pasture season (No. 01966) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

In Switzerland, alpine pasture season refers to the period between May and October, when cattle, sheep and goats are driven to high-altitude pastures to take advantage of the extra forage. During this time, alpine farmers of all genders care for the animals, maintain the pastures, fences and buildings, process the milk into cheese and other products, and welcome visitors. The centuries-old practice contributes to the preservation of natural landscapes and creates economic and social ties between the local populations and the alpine farmers. It has given rise to the knowledge and skills needed to maintain the sites, as well as to a variety of social and religious practices such as rituals, prayers and blessings, traditional clothing, livestock competitions and local festivities. The knowledge, skills, and customs of the alpine pasture season, including farming and cheesemaking, are often transmitted informally, within families and their seasonal employees or among members of alpine societies and cooperatives. They are also transmitted through regional training centres, cultural events and tourism. The alpine pasture season is a shared socio-cultural experience that unites farmers, villagers and the wider population. It is a strong identifying factor that features prominently in Swiss literature, music and visual and performing arts.

  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:  Bearers include alpine farmers and their families, seasonal workers, volunteers, landowners, tenants, cooperatives, companies and corporations, non-profit organisations, local authorities, communities, consumers of related products and visitors. The knowledge is transmitted mostly informally, within families and their seasonal employees. It is also transmitted through alpine societies and cooperatives, regional vocational training and advisory centres, agricultural trainings, and demonstrations, events and museum activities that combine cultural outreach, education and respectful tourism. Although the element’s social functions and cultural meanings are sometimes idealized, it is a shared socio-cultural experience that unites farmers, families, villagers and the wider population. The alpine pasture season contributes to ecological, economic and social sustainability and strives to continue strengthening its contributions in these areas to ensure its viability.

R.2:  Years of experience and know-how come together in the alpine pasture season. The practices are dynamic and in constant change, thus ensuring their sustainability and resilience. Inscribing the element and its associated agricultural, cultural and traditional practices would promote knowledge-sharing across communities with similar living heritage. It would emphasize the importance of the bearers’ ability to adapt and evolve to preserve their living heritage. Inscription would further enrich the relationship with mountain sites listed as World Heritage properties and show how the element contributes to the conservation of an ancestral cultural landscape. It would also increase understanding of the role of living heritage in safeguarding biodiversity and landscapes.

R.3:  Past and current safeguarding measures include activities relating to transmission, promotion, awareness-raising, infrastructure and protection. The State Party provides support for training, consulting and research, as well as structural and legal measures relating to policy and funding. Planned safeguarding measures include federation and organization at the national level, training and transmission, awareness-raising activities, cultural outreach, research and documentation. The State Party is committed to safeguarding the element through coordination, funding education, culture and research, among others, and supporting curricula revisions and public awareness campaigns. The communities concerned have been involved in planning the measures through participation in questionnaires, a nomination drafting group and workshops. They will be mobilized in the implementation of the measures as well.

R.4:  Since 2013, alpine pasture season has been included in a tentative list by the Swiss Confederation for nomination to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, with the approval of community representatives. An information session on the nomination procedures was held at the beginning of 2015. In 2020, the Federal Office of Culture started preparations for the nomination, identifying all relevant communities, groups and representatives and inviting them to a kick-off meeting. A drafting group met fourteen times in preparation of the nomination. Communities also responded to a questionnaire that collected information about their expectations, proposals and ideas. An online workshop session was held in relation to the nomination and the safeguarding measures. When the drafting was finalized, a meeting was held with several community representatives to approve the nomination file. Seventy-nine letters of consent accompany the nomination file, attesting to free, prior and informed consent from a wide range of people and organizations.

R.5:  The element has been included in the List of Living Traditions in Switzerland since 2012. The list is updated every five years or upon the request of the communities concerned. The Gruérien museum oversaw the identification and definition of the element, in collaboration with the communities, groups and individuals concerned. The element was subsequently proposed to the Federal Office of Culture for inclusion in the national inventory. Updates were related to broadening the scope of the element and enriching the description.

  1. Decides to inscribe Alpine pasture season on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party on a well-prepared file, including a good quality video that provides a detailed visual presentation of the cultural practices associated with the element.