Given Belgium’s federal structure, there is no single national body responsible for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and each region has responsibility for its own safeguarding policies and measures. In Flanders, the competent institutions of the Ministry of the Flemish Community of Belgium are the Department of Culture, Youth, Sport and Media and the Agency for Arts and Heritage, working through two non-governmental organizations (FARO and Tapis Plein). In the French-speaking part, within the Ministry of the French Community of Belgium, the Service général du patrimoine culturel et des arts plastiques (General Service of Cultural Heritage and Plastic Arts) and the Commission du patrimoine oral et immatériel (Oral and Intangible Heritage Commission) are the competent bodies. In the German-speaking part, it is the Ministry of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, through its Department of Culture, Youth and Adult Education.
Similarly, each Community has its own legislative and policy framework. The Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (Faro, 2005) is common to all three; it describes the ‘heritage community’ concept as an association of people and organizations who attach value to specific aspects of cultural heritage to be safeguarded and passed on to future generations through public action. In Flanders, a Decree on Cultural Heritage (2008, revised in 2012) forms the legal basis for supporting organizations that work to safeguard cultural heritage in a broad sense. At the end of 2010, the Flemish Culture Minister published the Flemish Community’s vision paper in the form of ‘A Policy for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Flanders’. In the Flemish Government’s overall plan for the lead-up to 2020, namely ‘Flandre en Action’ (Flanders in Action), investment in culture and intangible cultural heritage is presented as having added value. As far as the French Community is concerned, the primary policy document is the ‘Arrêté du Gouvernement de la Communauté française relatif aux titres de trésor culturel vivant et de chef-d’œuvre du patrimoine oral et immatériel…’ (Decree of the Government of the French-speaking Community relating to Living Cultural Treasures and Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage…) dated 4 September 2003. For the German-speaking Community, a draft decree is currently being prepared to oversee the creation, amongst other things, of an inventory in accordance with Article 12 of the Convention. This project will take effect in 2014.
Generally, human resources are well-developed in the sector of non-governmental organizations (in Flanders, in particular) and they share this expertise not only nationally but also internationally. The main non-governmental organizations active in Belgium – FARO and Tapis plein – have good capacities for training in management and methodology related to intangible cultural heritage and a network of ‘heritage cells’ also provides support to local communities in these areas. Non-governmental organizations in either the French- or German-speaking Communities have a more limited scope.
Belgium has, in general, relied upon pre-existing institutions, but has managed to do so in a creative manner. Importantly, the safeguarding approach in Flanders (and, to a lesser degree in the French-speaking Community) is bottom-up and in the form of a network, relying heavily on civil society organizations, local communities and local government authorities. Key actors intervene in a complementary manner in reinforcing the capacities of safeguarding bodies, policy is set at the local level (with a major input from non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations) and ‘heritage community’ actors are free to develop safeguarding plans and measures. Heritage ‘cells’ provide a strong organizational basis for this approach.
There is a large number of institutions and other bodies that collect and/or hold documentation on intangible cultural heritage in Flanders. Each commune and province holds an archival collection that includes intangible cultural heritage as well as the archives of non-governmental organizations (e.g. the ludodiversity archive of Sportimonium), associations, businesses and radio/TV companies. The Agency of Arts and Heritage (Agentschap Kunsten en Erfgoed) is creating a network of these bodies. There are several documentation centres in the French-speaking Community, including museums relating to specific elements (such as the International Carnival and Mask Museum and the Maison des géants).
Inventorying is also a regional, rather than national, competence. The Flemish Community has initiated an inventory of intangible cultural heritage for which the Agency of Arts and Heritage is the competent body. A consultative Commission of Experts comprising representatives of governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations has been established to undertake this and to develop a bottom-up inventorying process. With regard to the criteria used for inclusion of an element in the inventory: it must be an element of intangible cultural heritage as defined in the Vision Statement, the request for inscription must come from the community (on the basis of a consensus agreement), a set of safeguarding measures must be in place and the community must be involved in the safeguarding process along with a body supported or accepted by the Flemish Community authorities. The Flanders inventory takes the viability of intangible cultural heritage into account in its criterion requiring a safeguarding plan and may also add a warning regarding the loss of viability in the annual review of inscribed elements. The Flanders inventory is updated annually on the basis of the reports submitted on the elements and any changes or evolution in function, use or significance are noted. The French-speaking Community has a list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage administered by a Commission of Oral and Intangible Heritage, which is updated on an annual basis and available online. The criteria for inclusion are set out in the aforementioned decree of 2003. At the time of reporting, no inventory of intangible cultural heritage exists in the German-speaking Community.
With regard to measures to promote the function of intangible cultural heritage in society, the tradition in Flanders has been to award official recognition in the field of heritage, which has recently started to include intangible cultural heritage (e.g. Tapis plein in 2010-11 and the ludodiversity project in 2011-12). Generally, in Flanders, action is taken by sector and through groupings of interested people and bodies. In the German-speaking Community, emphasis is placed on safeguarding dialects and traditions that have only been safeguarded by individual initiatives up until now. The German-speaking Community is currently involved in the enhancement and protection of intangible cultural heritage through the application of a regional development strategy, including a project on mapping local dialects. Under the lead of the Ethnology Council, the French-speaking Community may commission research on topics related to Masterpieces inscribed under their aforementioned system.
In the French-speaking Community, actions to educate and sensitize the public about intangible cultural heritage are undertaken on the initiative of local authorities in relation to inscribed elements (or those in the process of inscription). This is achieved, in particular, through pedagogical tools created for primary schools, e.g. through the production of an educational ‘suitcase’ in the Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse region and re-enactments of the ‘Petit Lumeçon’ in the Mons region for primary schoolchildren in order to transmit the spirit and rules of the game to allow them to become future actors in the Grand Lumeçon. UNESCO’s Information Kit has been translated into Flemish and distributed to the formal and non-formal education sector. In 2006 and 2007, Tapis Plein developed a project to promote the Convention amongst young people through a quiz game in order to familiarize them with living heritage in their environment.
One of the most significant examples of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation has been the establishment of the Flanders/UNESCO Funds-in-Trust which has mostly concentrated its activities in the field of the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in Southern Africa since 2009. This has revolved primarily around two specific extra-budgetary programmes, namely: (1) a series of pilot projects in community-based intangible heritage inventorying on a grassroots-level in six selected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia), completed in 2011; and (2) strengthening national capacities for implementing the Convention in four selected Southern African countries (Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe), completed in 2012. The French-speaking Community has developed international links within the framework of multinational nominations to the Representative List. The Department of Culture, Youth and Adult Training of the German-speaking Community has established an exchange of information with the Landschaftsverband Rheinland (in Germany) over methods for creating an atlas of dialects.
Belgium reports here on eight elements inscribed on the Representative List: the Carnival of Binche (incorporated in 2008 after being proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003); Processional giants and dragons in Belgium and France (also incorporated, on a multinational basis, in 2008, having been proclaimed a Masterpiece in 2005); the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges (2009); Aalst carnival (2010); Falconry, a living human heritage (multinational element, 2010 and extended in 2012); Houtem Jaarmarkt, annual winter fair and livestock market at Sint-Lievens-Houtem (2010); the Krakelingen and Tonnekensbrand, end-of-winter bread and fire feast at Geraardsbergen (2010); and the Leuven age set ritual repertoire (2011).
Since inscription, the profile of the Carnival of Binche has been higher, with a larger numbers of visitors (including from overseas) and more media coverage. Inscription of the Processional giants and dragons has given support to bearer associations to promote and educate local populations and has led to cross-border cooperation, e.g. between the Maison des Géants in Ath and La Ronde des Géants et Les Amis de Fromulus in France. It has generally strengthened the element’s viability and there are now efforts to create links between the heritage and various socio-cultural associations. Since the Aalst carnival is one of the most well-known elements of intangible cultural heritage in Flanders, its inscription was very well-reported and has contributed to raising awareness of living heritage in general, the Convention and the need for safeguarding. Inscription helps the Houtem Jaarmarkt to face new challenges, since animal welfare regulations and regulations governing markets and mass gatherings are making it increasingly difficult to hold such markets. The inscription of the Procession of the Holy Blood has also shown inhabitants of Bruges (a World Heritage site) that their heritage is not restricted to the physical but includes also intangible elements.
Each element on the Flanders inventory of intangible cultural heritage must provide annual reports on the safeguarding measures taken. For the following elements, the reports are based on the annual reports submitted on each element and read and then approved by the heritage community: the Procession of the Holy Blood; the Aalst carnival; Falconry, a living human heritage; Houtem Jaarmarkt, an annual winter fair and livestock market at Sint-Lievens-Houtem; and Krakelingen and Tonnekensbrand, an end-of-winter bread and fire feast at Geraardsbergen. For the Carnival of Binche, the writing of the report was overseen by the International Carnival and Mask Museum, with input from representatives of the Association de Défense du Folklore, the Association de Défense du Lundi Gras and the Carnival non-governmental organization. With the Processional giants and dragons, depending on the situation of each procession, the local association or a similar body submitted information for the report.