This seminar was held in Beirut in May 1999 to consider the question as applied in Arab States. Experts from twelve countries took part in the seminar. Certain main concerns facing Arab States in the field of folklore, outlined in the completed questionnaires submitted by ten countries, were enumerated. These included:
Budgets reserved for folklore were reduced.
- Traditional industries have become separated from “heritage” and now principally serve tourists.
- Heritage may be lost due to the importance given to everything new, particularly new technologies.
- Heritage could be distorted or stolen by other countries and divided along sectarian lines.
- The institutions concerned with folklore have limited personnel and suffer from the lack of a central body to coordinate work.
The effects of globalization on the cultural heritage were discussed, in the context of the understanding that culture itself is not static. Globalization was seen as a double-edged sword, capable of helping national cultures to revitalize their cultures to face other cultures, but also threatening them with cultural homogeneity. The importance of the preservation of popular and traditional culture for human development was also noted, as was the fact that folklore can be the source of cultural revival while also contributing to economic development. However, one must be careful that the use of folklore for economic ends does not result in damaging the folklore itself. Cultural heritage is threatened by environmental deterioration, but, at the same time, its revitalization can provide the means to creating a better environment as well as forming a part of human identity and dignity.
Participants suggested some measures to solve these folklore-related problems facing Arab States and to lead towards safeguarding and revitalization of cultural heritage. It was suggested that a global development plan be drawn up for popular and traditional heritage and that the necessary legislation be developed to protect this heritage and all persons working in the field. The safeguarding of this heritage is to be understood as a continuous process, and permanent institutions must be created to provide moral and financial support to its practitioners and others. A clear priority also in ensuring the continuity and sustainability of this culture is the introduction of courses related to traditional and popular culture in educational curricula.