Periodic reporting on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Convention provides in Article 29 that States Parties shall submit to the Committee reports on the legislative, regulatory and other measures taken for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in their territories. Current page presents the periodic reports and deadlines of a country: Switzerland (see overview on all States Parties).

Periodic reporting on the implementation of the Convention allows States Parties to assess their implementation of the Convention, evaluate their capacities for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, report on their inventories of intangible cultural heritage and update the status of elements inscribed on the Representative List.

On the implementation of the Convention

Each State Party submits its periodic report to the Committee by 15 December of the sixth year following the year in which it deposited its instrument of ratification.

Report submitted on 15/12/2021 and examined by the Committee in 2022


soon available

Report submitted on 15/12/2014 and examined by the Committee in 2015


As a federal state, Switzerland has 26 cantons which have their own autonomous competent bodies for implementing the 2003 Convention and, although there are national and regional coordinating structures, each canton sets its own policies for this purpose. At federal level, the Section for Culture and Society of the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) is the competent body and a new post, a dedicated budget for 2012–2015 and a joint programme with other federal cultural institutions have been created. Within the FOC, working groups for different aspects of safeguarding have been set up seeking a balance between experts, regions and civil society, and they collaborate closely with the Swiss National Commission for UNESCO. At regional level, the Grand Council in Vaud adopted a Law on Movable and Intangible Heritage in 2014 proposing the creation of a post of conservator of intangible cultural heritage and a Fund for movable and intangible heritage. Geneva has integrated intangible cultural heritage into its Law on Culture (2013) in order to guarantee the transmission, conservation and enhancement of this heritage and the Law on Culture (2010) in Aargau includes intangible cultural heritage as a new domain for support. Other cantons have created commissions of governmental and non governmental experts, appointed personnel responsible for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage or assigned this responsibility to museums.
At federal level, no specific body has been created to provide training but several measures have been taken to improve management capacities of relevant institutions as a complement to traditional transmission mechanisms offered by universities and cultural institutions. For example, the Training Centre of Ballenberg strengthens capacities of practitioners through intergenerational transmission of craftsmanship techniques. At regional level, several training initiatives have been set up by academic and cultural institutions.
For documentation, the FOC created at federal level a website in five languages during development of the inventory in 2012 in order to reinforce the importance of intangible cultural heritage in Switzerland. The website includes documentation dossiers for all elements included in the national inventory, following close collaboration between federal authorities, experts, communities, groups and individuals who maintain and transmit this heritage. The National Library, the National Sound Archives, the National Museum and the National lexicons have played an important role in heritage documentation. At regional level, institutions such as the Centre of Dialectology and Ethnography (Ticino), the Centre for Popular Music (Appenzell) and the Ethnographic Museum (Neuchâtel) are notable for the attention they have paid to intangible cultural heritage over the past few years. Numerous cantonal libraries, universities, state archives, museums and other centres of expertise have been mobilised for documentation and have, in some cases, developed dynamic collaborations for documenting intangible cultural heritage at national, regional and local levels.
Inventories, as with other safeguarding measures, operate also at both national and regional levels. At national level, there is a national inventory called the List of Living Traditions in Switzerland (collated in 2010–2012 over 26 cantons) and a specialised Inventory of Swiss Culinary Heritage (collected in 2004–2009 over 24 cantons). At regional level, six cantons have their own inventories.
The National Inventory is classified according to the five domains of the 2003 Convention and according to the region(s) where the element is practised. The criteria of selection are also influenced by the Convention, with the addition of notions of uniqueness and representativeness applied to restrict the number of elements listed in this initial step. The viability of the elements is taken into account, including safeguarding measures in place and threats affecting the viability of each element. Federal authorities and cantons have all been involved in the inventorying process. While cantons were responsible for the identification of elements and their inventorying, federal authorities coordinated the overall process, including management of a steering group that evaluated submissions from the cantons, the technical, graphic and editorial work for the inventory and its translation and publication online. A monitoring group has been tasked with following up the inventory and the modalities for its updating are under discussion based on a recent evaluation. The federal approach is extremely decentralised and thereby facilitates participation from communities at the cantonal level. The degree of community involvement is variable but a publicly accessible website has been put in place since 2010 for direct involvement of the civil society.
Regional inventories vary significantly between cantons. The criteria for inclusion differ according to regions (e.g. the Canton of Vaud includes continuity, uniqueness and vitality while, in Fribourg, transmission, creation of a social link, recognition of bearers at the local or cantonal levels are all applied). Some cantons followed the form and approaches of the national model (e.g. Vaud and Fribourg), whereas others created their own models (Aargau-Solothurn, Valais and Bern). In cases where no public regional inventory exists, interregional approaches have been developed (as in central and eastern Switzerland). For updating the inventories, this again varies across regions especially since no national strategy has yet been determined. Community involvement is achieved in different ways across regions, through networks of towns, museums, associations and direct appeals for submissions. In most regions, working groups for inventorying involved non-governmental organisation representatives and provided many descriptions of inscribed elements. Local people are (as in Fribourg) also involved through cultural associations or other local authorities.
As far as national level safeguarding measures are concerned, the 2009 Culture Promotion Act provides an overall legal framework encouraging access and participation of communities to a cultural life. A priority programme ‘Living Traditions’ (2012–15) was initiated by the FOC to foster dissemination and promotion of living traditions. Exhibitions were hosted at the National Museum and the National Library. In order to foster the function of intangible cultural heritage in society, the National Commission for UNESCO organised awareness-raising forums to sensitize stakeholders and educators about the National Inventory and the importance of safeguarding living heritage for formal and informal education systems. The publication of the National Inventory on its website was itself an awareness raising activity and a nationwide promotional campaign was launched to introduce the elements to the public and to sensitize them about this heritage.
The cultural foundation Pro Helvetia supports popular culture (music, theatre and dance) and uses innovative methods, such as creating new works, bringing together international groups of popular music in festivals, supporting talented young performers through extra-curricular exchanges between different regions and funding projects of associations active in maintaining Swiss popular culture.
The FOC promotes research on intangible cultural heritage in Switzerland geared towards concrete outcomes, such as developing a practical guide for collaboration between bearers, communities and tourism actors for sustainable development. It also organises scientific conferences, such as on exhibiting and mediating intangible cultural heritage and proceedings of several independent scientific meetings have also been published. In 2011, FOC published a study on traditional craftsmanship with the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation.
There is, as yet, no education or training within concerned communities at national level but the Training Centre of Ballenberg is supported in its capacity-building efforts for crafts associations by the FOC. Non-formal transmission is not directly addressed but a study on craftsmanship found a relationship between formal apprenticeship modes and the degree of viability of practices.
At regional level, some regions provide support to specific elements and their performer/practitioner associations (e.g. yodel in St. Gallen), cantonal associations (e.g. the Fribourg Choral Federation), for specific events (e.g. the ‘Festival of Bénichon’) or for certain know-how (e.g. stonework). It should be noted that villages and towns, as well as lottery funding for civil society, also play an important role in realising safeguarding activities. The 2003 Convention has also provided a new orientation for pre-existing support to traditional, associative and amateur cultural activities. Measures include research studies, awareness-raising and promotional activities (e.g. collaboration between an art college, museums and TV channel to make documentary films), actions for cultural creators, conferences, debates and exhibitions. Different cantons have different priority domains, such as popular music and dialect in central Switzerland or the yodel in Appenzell. The various safeguarding actions all contribute to the dissemination of information to the public, through online websites and databases, taking into consideration customary practices (e.g. reintroducing outdoor yodelling based on traditional lifestyle).
In addition, a multitude of educational, awareness-raising and information sharing measures have been taken, such as an educational brochure for teachers with differentiated activities for children from 5 to 18 years old (Vaud), activities for school-aged children on the cantonal web portal, online availability of inventories (Fribourg, Aargau-Solothurn, Valais and Bern), information tools and field studies. Museums and regional centres have also prepared various pedagogical tools and information has been disseminated through the media (Schwyz) and brochures on local elements (Uri). Several cantons in eastern Switzerland collaborated on a project for children’s and young persons’ musical training. Regular events are also organised to allow new inhabitants to become familiar with local traditions (Fribourg, Neuchâtel) and lifelong training opportunities are offered (pastoralism, clock-making and dry stonewall-making). Demonstrations of craftsmanship skills are organised during festivals, traditional markets and European Artistic Crafts Days. These provide for public awareness-raising and reinforce traditional know-how and the role of practitioners through direct contact with the public. Regional Natural Parks engage in educational and awareness-raising activities relating to intangible cultural heritage and the natural environment (e.g. Gruyère Pays-d’Enhaut and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at Entlebuch) to promote know-how related to natural resources and provide guided thematic visits for awareness-raising on intangible cultural heritage elements (festivals, customs and craftsmanship). These encourage an all-round education of children and youth about natural spaces related to intangible cultural heritage.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, the Federal State has regular contacts through the Austrian and German National Commissions and the French Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage with neighbouring countries to identify subjects of common interest. The Swiss National Commission for UNESCO itself organised an international expert workshop on the 2003 Convention in 2012. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has provided support for intangible cultural heritage through various development projects in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. It has also participated in projects carried out by the non-governmental organisation Traditions for Tomorrow with indigenous peoples and afro-descendant minorities. Pro Helvetia Foundation’s activities are also primarily conducted through interregional exchanges. At regional level, there is an ongoing cooperation project on Italo-Swiss ethnography and intangible cultural heritage between the Italian regions of Lombardy, Val d’Aoste, Piedmont and Bolzano-South Tyrol (autonomous Province) and the Swiss cantons of Valais, Ticino and Graubünden.
Switzerland currently has no elements inscribed on the Representative List or the Urgent Safeguarding List.