01/02/1999 - 22/05/2024
New Caledonia

The seminar took place in Noumea in February 1999. A total of twelve participants from twelve countries took part in the seminar. Thirteen out of the fourteen countries requested responded to the questionnaire, and, on the basis of these responses, the objectives of the seminar were established: to identify ways and means of reinforcing the application of the Recommendation in the region and to formulate a long-term regional strategy aimed at safeguarding, revitalization, legal protection, transmission, and dissemination of Pacific intangible heritage. Short reports were presented by each country. A few countries were unaware of the Recommendation due to their status as new Member States of UNESCO.

No distinction is made in the Pacific region between intangible and tangible heritage, although it has been used for the purposes of this study. Furthermore, for many Indigenous people, “folklore” is seen as an inappropriate and pejorative term, “cultural heritage” being much more positive and useful. The intangible heritage of the Pacific is mainly unrecorded and is threatened by the youthful demography of the region as well as by economic problems in the cultural sector. Another significant threat to the intangible heritage is the
residue of colonialism and its continuing effects on society. It is recognized strongly that traditional cultures have a relevance today for sustainable development.

The common issues and concerns identified during the seminar included:

  • Preservation and future development of the intangible heritage require the involvement of many stakeholders (NGOs, women, youth, elders, and local communities).
  • The complexities of the land tenure system and the use of family clan, local, and national shareholding suggest that any system based on a single claimant is grossly inadequate for intellectual cultural property ownership in Pacific societies.
  • Current international concerns relating to the exploitation of the environment have given regional states the incentive to revive traditional methods of managing land and sea.

Further points made include the need to:

  • encourage communities and stakeholders to take part in documenting this heritage;
  • recognize the importance of traditional cultures to development and income generation;
  • recognize the threat some major business developments pose to community access to materials used in traditional cultural practices;
  • recognize that cultural identity and land ownership are inseparable; and
  • devise legal tools (which are now non-existent) and intellectual property laws (which are now inappropriate) to protect community culture.