Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity: Proclamations 2001, 2003 and 2005
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These pages are meant to provide background information on the 90 Masterpieces proclaimed by UNESCO. Please notice that the Proclamation of Masterpieces that took place in 2005 will not be followed by other proclamations. According to Article 31.3 of the Convention, (n)o further Proclamation will be made after the entry into force of this Convention. Please also notice that therefore no new candidature files for proclamation should be sent to UNESCO.

The Convention specifies the relationship between the Convention and the Proclamation in a transitional clause : Article 31.1 stipulates that the Intergovernmental Committee “shall incorporate in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity the items proclaimed ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ before the entry into force of this Convention”.

Origin and objectives

In line with UNESCO’s lengthy quest for the recognition of the function and values of living cultural expressions and practices, the Cultural Heritage Division and the Moroccan National Commission for UNESCO organized in June 1997 in Marrakesh an International Consultation on the Preservation of Popular Cultural Spaces. The experts participating in the consultation decided to recommend the creation of an international distinction by UNESCO to draw attention to outstanding examples of this form of heritage.

Dating back to the fourteenth century, the triangular Jemaa el-Fna Square has become the symbol of Marrakech, protected as part of Morocco’s artistic heritage since 1922. It features a unique concentration of traditions, such as storytelling, healing and various forms of entertainment as well as commercial activities. Read more on the element
© Ahmed Ben Ismaïl

In keeping with the results of the International Consultation, the Moroccan authorities, supported by many Member States, submitted a draft resolution proposing the creation of an international distinction for manifestation of ICH and associated cultural spaces. The resolution was adopted by the General Conference at its 29th session in 1997 (English). Consequently, UNESCO’s Executive Board adopted at its 155th session, in November 1998, the Regulations relating to the Proclamation (English).

The Proclamation aimed at:

  • raising awareness of the importance of the oral and intangible heritage and the need to safeguard it;
  • evaluating and listing the world’s oral and intangible heritage;
  • encouraging countries to establish national inventories and to take legal and administrative measures for the protection of their oral and intangible heritage;
  • promoting the participation of traditional artists and local practitioners in identifying and revitalizing their ICH.

Selection procedure

It is recalled that no further Proclamation will be made, and that, according to Article 31.2 of the Convention, the incorporation of the [Masterpieces] in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity shall in no way prejudge the criteria for future inscriptions decided upon in accordance with Article 16, paragraph 2.

Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity - implementation guide (2000) English|French

Definition and criteria

The Proclamation concerned:

  • forms of popular and traditional cultural expressions
  • and cultural spaces, i.e., places where cultural and popular activities are concentrated and regularly take place (markets squares, festivals, etc.)

The cultural expressions and spaces proposed for Proclamation had to:

  • demonstrate their outstanding value as masterpiece of the human creative genius;
  • give wide evidence of their roots in the cultural tradition or cultural history of the community concerned;
  • be a means of affirming the cultural identity of the cultural communities concerned;
  • provide proof of excellence in the application of the skill and technical qualities displayed;
  • affirm their value as unique testimony of living cultural traditions;
  • be at risk of degradation or of disappearing.

Furthermore, these cultural forms and spaces were to be in conformity with UNESCO ideals and in particular with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The files proposing candidates for Proclamation also had to provide proof of the full involvement and agreement of the communities concerned, and to include an action plan for the safeguarding or promotion of the cultural spaces or expressions, which should have been elaborated in close collaboration with the tradition bearers.

Guide for the presentation of candidature files (2002): English
Video specification: English|French


The submission and selection procedure consisted of the following steps:

  1. Member States could submit one candidature files every two years. Over and above the limit of one national file, Member States could submit multinational candidature files.
  2. Once they had been registered and the content verified by the Secretariat, the files were evaluated from a scientific and technical point of view by NGOs specialized in the different domains that are covered by the notion of intangible cultural heritage.
  3. An International Jury consisting of 18 members and nominated by the Director-General for four years, examined the candidatures in the light of the scientific and technical evaluations and in accordance with the critera established by the Rules of the Proclamation. After that, the Jury submitted its recommendations to the Director-General.
  4. Further to the Jury’s recommendation, the Director-general proclaimed a list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

NGOs solicited for the Proclamation

Jury Members

  • Hassan M. AL-NABOODAH (United Arab Emirates) - 2001, 2003
  • Antonio A. ARANTES (Brazil) - 2005
  • Egil BAKKA (Norway) - 2005
  • Aziza BENNANI (Morocco) - 2001, 2003, 2005
  • HRH Basma Bint Talal (Jordan) - 2001, 2003, 2005
  • Georges CONDOMINAS (France) - 2001, 2003, 2005
  • Anzor ERKOMAICHVILI (Georgia) - 2001, 2003, 2005
  • Carlos FUENTES (Mexico) - 2001, 2003, 2005
  • Juan GOYTISOLO (Spain) - 2001, 2003
  • Yoshikazu HASEGAWA (Japan) - 2003, 2005
  • Epeli HAU’OFA (Fiji) - 2005
  • Hideki HAYASHIDA (Japan) - 2001
  • Ugné KARVELIS (Lithuania) - 2001
  • Alpha Oumar KONARE (Mali) - 2001, 2003, 2005
  • Elvira KUNINA (Russian Federation) - 2005
  • Richard KURIN (United States) - 2001, 2003
  • HRH Ronald MUWENDA MUTEBI II (Uganda) - 2001, 2003
  • Olive W.M. LEWIN (Jamaica) - 2001, 2003, 2005
  • Amandina LIHAMBA (United Republic of Tanzania) - 2005
  • Ahmed MORSI (Egypt) - 2005
  • J.H. Kwabena NKETIA (Ghana) - 2001, 2003
  • Martina PAVLICOVA (Czech Republic) - 2005
  • Ralph REGENVANU (Vanuatu) - 2001, 2003
  • Olabiyi B.J. YAI (Benin) - 2005
  • Dawnhee YIM (Republic of Korea) - 2001, 2003
  • Zulma YUGAR (Bolivia) - 2001, 2003
  • Munojat YULCHIEVA (Uzbekistan) - 2001, 2003
  • Ana ZACARIAS (Portugal) - 2005
  • Zhentao ZHANG (China) - 2005