Since the adoption of UNESCO’s Recommendations on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore in 1989 and the launching of the Safeguarding and Promoting of Intangible Cultural Heritage Programme in 1993 much has changed in the worldwide political, economic, social and cultural landscapes. In addition, the emergence of new technologies can have an adverse effect, which challenges the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, and alternatively, more positive influences facilitating preservation, revitalization and transmission. Despite the progress of UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Programme, many issues and questions have arisen in relation to the situation of this heritage. In response, UNESCO has organized eight regional seminars of assessment for the application of the Recommendation from 1995 to 1999. On the basis of the results of these regional seminars, the International Conference was organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution with the purpose of reviewing the protection of intangible cultural heritage at the end of the twentieth century, assessing the relevance of UNESCO’s 1989 Recommendation to the current situation and developing fresh orientations for UNESCO’s programme in this new world context.
The Action Plan at the conference highlights the concerns of thirty-four participants from twenty-seven countries and those of forty observers. While pursuing efforts in the field of safeguarding and promoting intangible cultural heritage, UNESCO’s programme must respond to Member States’ concerns regarding the continual emergence of relevant and diverse factors, including gender transformation, access to new technologies, bio-ethics, management of natural resources, cultural diversity and globalization. The following concrete recommendations were made within the Action Plan addressed to UNESCO:
- Development of adequate international legal instruments to reinforce the protection of intangible cultural heritage;
- Implementation of actions orientated towards practitioners with the active participation of local communities for safeguarding their own culture;
- Establishment of an international and interdisciplinary network of experts to assist Member States in developing concrete programmes to safeguard, promote, transmit and revitalize intangible cultural heritage.
UNESCO/Japan Funds-in-Trust ($69,942); the Smithsonian Institution ($60,000); US State Dept. ($30,000); National Endowment ($10,000)