At the legislative level, Haiti has integrated the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage into the 1987 Constitutional Law (amended 2011), taken a decision that establishes Haitian Voodoo as equal to all religions (2003), created a Creole Language Academy (2011), and passed the Law on Decentralization (2013) and the draft Law on Cultural Heritage (2015). In addition, all the provisions of the draft Framework Law for Cultural Policy (2014) support the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. The overall implementing body is the Ministry of Culture and Communication, acting through its Heritage Directorate (established in 2006), which coordinates the actions of its subsidiary bodies such as the National Bureau of Ethnology, the National Museum, the National Library and the Institute for Safeguarding National Heritage. The Ministry established a Sectoral Working Group on Heritage in 2015, serving as a public-private partnership and an advisory space. In addition, the Haitian Committee on the Memory of the World and the development of a fiscal plan for the culture sector are strengthening Haitian implementation actions. The Law on Decentralization (2013) transfers the governance of cultural heritage to the territorial authorities and thus devolves this action to these entities.
The State University of Haiti provides training in the management of intangible cultural heritage in its different academic centres, such as the Institute for African Study and Research (IERAH), which offers a BA in Heritage, Memory and Tourism and an Inter-disciplinary Master degree and a PhD Programme in History and the Memory and Heritage Centre (PIHMO). The regional University of Henry Christophe strengthens training in this area through its research activities and two private universities (Quisqueya et Notre-Dame) participate in developing capacities.
The State University of Haiti has dedicated a large part of its funds for documentation to the domain of intangible cultural heritage. Other active institutions collecting and holding documentation are the private Universities of Quisqueya and Notre-Dame, the National Bureau of Ethnology and the National Library.
Inventorying is underway in Haiti and a Multimedia Inventory of Intangible Heritage of Haiti (IPIMH) covering the West, Artibonite, North and South-east administrative regions is now being undertaken by the Ministry in partnership with Laval University (Canada). It is organized according to geographic principles and the domains of intangible cultural heritage, in particular gastronomy, traditional games and traditional memorial practices, and is based on the communities consulted. The inscription criteria are the rooting of the element in various territories, in the history of municipalities and the nation, transmission over at least two generations and recognition of the vitality of the practices by the communities and various municipalities. Fifty elements have now been inventoried, twenty-eight of which are considered as viable and enjoying inter-generational transmission. Training sessions were held with local and bearer communities, following which inventory teams were deployed to different localities to interview the bearers. This inventory is held in a multimedia database made up of descriptive text, photographs, sound recordings and audio-visual clips accessible worldwide. The National Bureau of Ethnology has also conducted a thematic inventory of contredanse, covering all ten administrative regions of the country and structured according to communities. Contredanse demonstrates great vitality, is practised throughout the country and has evolved and been adapted, with a fusion of European dances with other dances of African origin. The populations concerned have been involved in identifying and describing the element. The main approach was to consult different practitioner communities of the contredanse element throughout the ten regions of the country and these actors participated in all steps of the process, from collecting data to disseminating the results. Validation was conducted at the community level by each inventorying group before validation at the regional and national levels. The National Bureau of Ethnology has developed a thematic multimedia website and copies of the inventory fiches, research bulletins and the website are available for communities to access. In addition, a Registry of National Heritage was established in 2012 which now includes five elements of traditional know-how and practices.
During the 2000s, Haiti adopted the Strategic Plan for Cultural Development 2012-2020, whose seven fields of intervention (training, partnership, promotion etc.) all involve local communities; this allows for the integration of intangible cultural heritage into planning programmes and the related budget. For example, under sub-programme 3.4.1, the valorisation of oral, medical, craft, musical, culinary and religious traditions can be achieved. In terms of specific safeguarding measures, this involves cultural festivals, craft fairs, cultural exhibitions and fêtes tied in with cultural tourism and which support socio-economic development. In addition, a participative social dialogue was launched which developed the following thematic areas: living spectacles, plastic arts, fashion and craft design, media and audio-visual industries, cultural mediation organizations, cultural education and professional training, creative industries, the legal framework, financing and heritage. Priority projects identified for the next Triennial Investment Plan include safeguarding sacred sites that will include inventorying, recording and presenting ethnological elements, creating a structure for heritage conservation and diffusion at Jacmel and the enhancement of elements of intangible cultural heritage.
As for research, several state institutions conduct scientific, technical and artistic studies on intangible cultural heritage and, through the University of Haiti, encourage studies aimed at effective safeguarding. In this way, the State finances various independent studies on elements of intangible cultural heritage, such as on crafts, their production and the associated know-how, or on economically viable cultural activities. The priority areas for research are: intangible cultural heritage related to Haitian Vaudou; intangible cultural heritage and the development of local tourism; intangible cultural heritage – memory, oral traditions and art; intangible cultural heritage and gastronomic practices; and heritage and the normative framework. To facilitate access to information on intangible cultural heritage, while respecting customary practices, a database of inventoried elements and a multimedia site (see above) have been created. The State also financed a Virtual Cultural Centre (CCV) that functioned up until the end of 2015. The Bulletin of the National Ethnographic Bureau is now being digitalized for wider dissemination while the journal Chantiers of the University of Haiti includes articles on local knowledge and know-how. Since many of the traditional practices studies are sacred and form part of vaudou, ethical research principles are strictly respected and the oral or written consent of informants is often requested by researchers for the diffusion of the information gathered. Awareness raising through public information has also been undertaken by the national radio, TV and newspapers. In 2009, public debates were held by the MCC around intangible cultural heritage elements.
Intangible cultural heritage was initially included in formal education in 2009 through three programmes which included access to various festivals, exhibitions and fairs and the planned creation of 250 cultural spaces of which 60 were rolled out over two years and initially involved 10 high schools in central Port-au-Prince. These were aimed at providing cultural classes covering the popularization of ethnomusicology, introducing artistic and cultural entrepreneurship into schools, among other things. However, all these classes were suspended due to the lack of funding as a result of the natural disasters that hit Haiti in 2010. In 2012, the State revived the integration of intangible cultural heritage into schools through the cultural education sub-programme comprising six projects. Since 2007, the MCC, Ministry of National Education and Professional Training, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Civic Action, the Haitian National Commission, the UNESCO Schools Network, the Ministry of the Interior and Territorial Authorities have organized Heritage Rallies as an extra-curricular activity in which between 250-300 school children from all ten administrative regions of Haiti gather to become familiar with their own country and its heritage.
In terms of capacity building, a new master’s degree and PhD-level university course have trained thirty specialists in managing Haiti’s intangible cultural heritage. In addition, summer universities were held in 2011 at Jacmel on intangible cultural heritage, cultural tourism and new technologies, and at Limonade in 2013 on the enhancement of heritage, cultural tourism and sustainable development; a training workshop was also held in 2014 in the Arbonite region on agricultural and food heritage. The National Bureau of Ethnology has also held workshops to train cultural actors in the key concepts of the Convention and, in 2014, it gathered heritage promoters, professionals and practitioners from different administrative regions at a working meeting to study a collective approach towards inventorying in 2015-2016. This resulted in the contredanse inventory and a request for International Assistance to undertake it. Associations attached to the Human Sciences Faculty at the University of Haiti organize Walking Rallies in which they conduct education and natural spaces and places of memory necessary for intangible cultural heritage. The National Agency for Protected Places (ANAP), which is attached to the Ministry of Environment, raises public awareness of natural spaces generally and teams from the MCC work in synergy with this body.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Haiti cooperates with the Dominican Republic on various cultural issues in the framework of CARI Forum-EU funding. A cultural cooperation agreement (2007) covers exchanges of cultural goods and services, training, joint festivals and cultural events, taking part in carnivals in each country, establishing Culture Houses in frontier zones and holding a Haitian Cultural Week in the Dominican Republic and vice versa. In 2010, Haiti signed an agreement with the Smithsonian Institute (USA) over a project for assistance with safeguarding, stabilizing and restoring cultural heritage damaged by the earthquake, which included heritage practices, know-how, knowledge and representations of the Haitian people. This led to the establishment of a Safeguarding Centre at the University of Quisqueya. Haiti has also enjoyed exchanges and cooperation over several years with the French Community in Belgium (the exchange of expertise, knowledge and study; research in specific areas of culture; training in traditional music etc.). In 2010, the MCC and University of Haiti concluded an agreement with Laval University (Canada) to develop a network of experts, strengthen the master’s degree programme in History, Memory and Heritage (Institute of research and Training) to: develop the inventory and multi-media database (see above); provide students and professors in Haiti with a body of readily-accessible data for undertaking research; and make the multi-media database a tool for hybrid creations and new enhancements. A UNESCO commission visited Haiti in 2013 to collect the viewpoints of a number of Haitian actors on how to adapt the principles of the Convention to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in the Haitian context; this led to capacity-building workshops being held in 2013 to raise the awareness of cultural actors.
Thus far, Haiti has no elements inscribed on the Representative List.